Islamic terrorist group ISIS continues its effort to eradicate the Christian faith in Iraq, as reports come out of the nation's besieged Nineveh province of wholesale executions of believers, including crucifixions and the beheadings of children.
In July the terrorists overran the Nineveh capital of Mosul, which had had a strong Christian presence for over 1,700 years, prompting families who had lived there for generations to flee under threat of death. ISIS thugs systematically looted Christian homes and businesses in the city, desecrated cemeteries, destroyed the tombs of biblical prophets, ruined churches, and pulled down crosses, all in an effort to establish control and intimidate Christians and religious minorities throughout Iraq.
CNN reported that the community of Qaraqosh in Nineveh, identified as Iraq's largest Christian city, was overrun by ISIS terrorists August 7, prompting thousands of Christians to flee. Joseph Thomas, the archbishop of Iraq's Chaldean Christian group in Iraq, confirmed that “the towns of Qaraqosh, Tal Kayf, Bartella, and Karamlesh have been emptied of their original population and are now under the control of the militants.”
Twenty miles southeast of Mosul, Qaraqosh is a historic Assyrian city of 50,000 people with a long-time, vibrant Chaldean Christian community, and many of those who were forced to flee Mosul took refuge in Qaraqosh. When ISIS terrorists invaded the city, both refugees and the community's Christian residents quickly fled north, as ISIS continued with its effort to create an Islamic caliphate taking in both Syria and Iraq.
The U.K.'s Telegraph newspaper reported that over 200,000 Iraqis have fled from Nineveh to the north as the ISIS campaign of murder and mayhem continues.
Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako told AFP News that Iraqi Christians “have fled with nothing but their clothes, some of them on foot, to reach the Kurdistan region” — which borders Nineveh Province. He added that it was a “humanitarian disaster. The churches are occupied, their crosses were taken down,” with out-of-control ISIS thugs burning as many as 1,500 ancient Christian manuscripts.
A resident of Tal Kayf, which has a significant Christian community along with members of the Shabak Shiite minority, said that the community fell with no resistance to the ISIS thugs. “I heard some gunshots last night and when I looked outside, I saw a military convoy from [ISIS],” the resident told the Telegraph. “They were shouting 'Allahu akbar’ [God is greatest].'”
On the heels of the ISIS assault, some reports have placed the Christian population of Iraq, once estimated at approximately 1.5 million, at fewer than 200,000.
In addition to the assault on Christians, Fox News reported that ISIS had also besieged the northwestern Iraqi village of Sinjar, “forcing tens of thousands of people from the ancient Yazidi minority to flee into the mountains and the Kurdish region.” Reports from experts on the ground estimated that between 35,000 and 50,000 had fled to nearby Mount Sinjar and other areas, with armed ISIS terrorists in pursuit.
According to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, the Obama administration was arranging for the U.S. military to assist the Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces that were defending the area. On the evening of August 7 Obama said in a White House statement: “Today I authorized two operations in Iraq — targeted air strikes to protect our American personnel and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain death.”
On August 8 the Pentagon announced that the airstrikes had commenced, with Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby posting on Twitter: “U.S. military aircraft conduct strike on ISIL artillery. Artillery was used against Kurdish forces defending Erbil, near U.S. personnel.” Kirby went on to relate that two F/A 18 fighter aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near the Kurdish capital of Erbil. “As the president made clear, the United States military will continue to take direct action against ISIL when they threaten our personnel and facilities,” Kirby said.
Meanwhile, along with the looting and destruction by ISIS have come terrifying reports of the execution of individuals identified as Christians by the terrorists, including the “systematic” beheading of children.
“Christianity in Mosul is dead, and a Christian holocaust is in our midst,” Mark Arabo, a Chaldean-American businessman living in California, told CNN in a televised interview. He warned that a “Christian genocide” is being conducted by ISIS. “Children are being beheaded, mothers are being raped and killed, and fathers are being [hanged],” he said. Arabo emphasized that ISIS terrorists “are systematically beheading children, and mothers and fathers. The world hasn't seen an evil like this for generations.”
He related that “there's actually a park in Mosul where they beheaded children and put their heads on a stick.... They are doing the most horrendous, the most heart-breaking crimes that you can think of.”
CNSNews.com noted that a “quick scan of YouTube shows the truth of what Arabo is saying — there are gruesome videos of heads on spikes, and many of live beheadings.” One video shows an individual, apparently a Christian, “forced to say the Shahada 'there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet,'” reported CNSNews, “and then beheaded anyway.” Warned the news site: “Don't Google these things unless you have a strong stomach.”
Arabo told CNN that ISIS thugs “are absolutely killing every Christian they see. This is absolutely a genocide in every sense of the word. They want everyone to convert, and they want sharia law to be the law of the land.”
Vicar Andrew White of Baghdad's St. George's Church, the only Anglican congregation in Iraq, reported on his Facebook page that he has seen “images too awful to show” of atrocities committed by ISIS. “The photo I was sent today was the most awful I have ever seen,” he reported. “A family of 8 all shot through the face laying in a pool of blood with their Bible open on the couch. They would not convert; it cost them their life. I thought of asking if anybody wanted to see the picture but it is just too awful to show to anybody. This is Iraq today.”
In an article posted July 31 on the Anglican Communion News Service, White noted that ISIS had boasted: “We can do anything now the world is just looking at Gaza.” White commented, “In reality that is true,” writing that “every day we think the crisis here cannot get worse and every day it does. Yesterday over 1,500 people were killed.” He added that “Iraq seems like old news, yet things just get worse and worse here. It is as if hell has broken out here and nobody cares.”
The 1,500 people who were killed may refer to videos ISIS proudly posted in late July that show mass executions of Iraqi men who were rounded up, trucked to a remote area, and systematically executed. (The extremely graphic video here shows the killings.) Another segment shows executioners shooting victims in the head and throwing them, one after another, off a pier.
White wrote that even in Baghdad “people are terrified of what is happening around us. [ISIS] has established their hidden cells within Baghdad and people are seriously under threat even though they are not in the areas controlled by [ISIS]. The number of kidnappings here has soared and people simply do not know what is going to happen next.”