“Anyone not from Tel Asqaf is banned,” is the simple motto of the recently established Christian militia in the Iraqi village of Tel Asqaf in the country’s northern Nineveh province, according to the news agency AFP.
The residents of the village, who are Chaldean, have been the target of attacks from both Sunni and Shi’ite fighters in addition to criminal gangs due to their association with the American “invaders” and relative well being.
The Chaldeans are by far the largest Christian sect in Iraq and before the U.S. invasion in 2003 they numbered 800,000. However, due to sectarian violence their numbers have been significantly reduced.
After deciding to discontinue paying protection money the villagers have now turned to the Bishmarka – the armed force of the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq based in the city of Erbil – for help, since they believe that their own provincial capital Mosul has too large a Sunni population.
The militia guards are placed at the entrances to the village and also conduct patrols throughout the village, especially around the St George Church in the center.
Churches and monasteries have often been targeted by Muslim extremists in various parts of Iraq.
Earlier this year the Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was kidnapped and later found murdered. It is believed he was targeted because he decided to stop paying money for protection.
C2008. The Media Line Ltd. All Rights Reserved.