Iraq: Islamist group threatens churches in Mosul
The letter sent by The Batallion of Just Punishment, Jihad Base in Mesopotamia, also opposes the establishment of a sectarian Assyrian-Christian police force, reported the Assyrian International News Agency on Wednesday.
“We caution and warn anyone who tries to rob us through dealings with the Americans or through the spreading of American forces and/or police to protect the Holy Shrines in the Islamic Republic of Iraq, that these shrines would remain target of the freedom fighters,” the letter said.
“We remind the dhimmi people [Jews and Christians] that Iraq is for the noble Iraqis and not for how you are now.”
The Islamist group also refers to Assyrian Christians as ‘Dhimmi’, or a non-Muslim subject of the state governed by Islamic Sharia law.
“I suspect this letter may have actually come from Ansar Al-Islam,” said an unnamed Assyrian community leader, referring to the Kurdish Islamist group affiliated with al-Qaeda.
“The Kurds don’t want us to have our own police force.”
Assyrians are an ethnic group in Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. Nearly all Assyrians converted to Christianity during the first century A.D.
Most of the Christians in Iraq belong to the Assyrian and Chaldean Catholic denominations. Others groups include Syrian Orthodox or protestants.
During Saddam Hussein’s secular regime they were free to worship – one of the regime’s most prominent Christian members was Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.
Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, growing religious intolerance and sectarian violence have prompted many Iraqi Christians to flee abroad.