Top officials crisscrossed the Capitol over the past two days, giving urgent warnings that ISIS represented a threat “worse than Al Qaeda,” in the words of one State Department official, with the capability to create a sanctuary for global jihadists working to threaten American interests.
The self-declared Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is no longer merely a terrorist organization, a top State Department official told House and Senate lawmakers, but “a full-blown army seeking to establish a self-governing state through the Tigris and Euphrates Valley in what is now Syria and Iraq.” …
“[ISIS] has proving to be… more effective in terms of organizing and developing a state structure than even core Al Qaeda, and that is why it is more than just a terrorist organization—it certainly doesn’t have the global reach in terms of terrorist capacity as core Al Qaeda, but it has the sophistication to develop what has really becoming a state-like sanctuary for a global jihadist movement,” McGurk said. “They’re a self-sustaining organization.”
The dawn attack began with militants firing mortar rounds on Iraqi army bases in the town of Taji, where suspects were being held on terrorism charges, prompting officials to evacuate the facilities, fearing a jailbreak.
As the convoy traveled through a remote area, roadside bombs went off and militants opened fire. The ensuing battle left 52 prisoners and eight soldiers dead, with another eight soldiers and seven prisoners wounded, they added. It was not immediately clear if the prisoners were killed by soldiers or militants, or if the extremist Islamic State group was involved. …
Militants affiliated with the Islamic State group — which seized much of northern and western Iraq last month — have staged several jailbreaks, including a complex, military-style assault on two Baghdad-area prisons in July 2013 that freed more than 500 inmates.
Apparently fearing a repeat of the incident, Shiite militiamen killed nearly four dozen Sunni detainees last month in the town of Baqouba northwest of Baghdad when the facility where they were being held came under attack, according to a report by Amnesty International.
“Life in Mosul is very normal,” says Abu Mustafa. Christians there are treated well, prices are low and people are safe and happy, he says, a description completely at odds with news reports and firsthand accounts describing a reign of terror against anyone in the city who hasn’t sworn loyalty to the caliph.
He seems to believe what he’s saying and performs the group’s public relations not just to blow smoke into the journalist’s eyes, but because he honestly hopes to see the caliph succeed in conquering Baghdad. And then, after the victory, he expects to see the caliphate destroyed.
“All we are doing now is just a liberation,” Abu Mustafa says. “After the liberation of Baghdad the Islamic state will be finished. The Sunni rebels are only using them against the corruption of the government.”
The new jihadist rulers of Iraq’s northern city of Mosul on Thursday completely levelled one its most well-known shrines, an official and witnesses told AFP.
The Nabi Yunus shrine was built on the reputed burial site of a prophet known in the Koran as Yunus and in the Bible as Jonah. …
“They first stopped people from praying in it, they fixed explosive charges around and inside it and then blew it up in front of a large gathering of people,” said a witness who did not wish to give his name.
“It’s reminiscent of what we saw in Europe in the build-up to the Second World War or the ethnic cleansing witnessed during the Balkans in the early 1990s,” said former British ambassador to the Holy See, Francis Campbell. “It’s as if the world is asleep and doesn’t care.” …
With the exception of Pope Francis and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, world leaders have largely been silent about the religious cleansing that is spreading throughout Iraq and Syria — despite urgent calls from religious leaders in the region for an international response to what Ban called a “crime against humanity”. …
Last Friday, the U.S. State Department condemned “in the strongest terms” the hounding and persecution by Isis, calling its ultimatum in Mosul that Christians leave, pay a tax, convert to Islam or face execution as “abominable actions” aimed at dividing and destroying Iraq.
But President Obama has yet to speak on the atrocity. Neither have Europe’s leaders.
Last weekend Isis gave the city’s Christians a stark choice: convert to Islam, pay a religious tax, or face death. “They said there is no place for Christians in the Islamic state,” one distraught refugee said from the safety of Bashiqa, 16 miles from Mosul. “Either you become Muslim or you leave.” Mosul’s last 1,500 Christian families were reportedly robbed at Isis checkpoints as they fled.
Hundreds have found shelter in areas between Mosul and Irbil – the capital of the Kurdistan regional government – that are controlled by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, but they face an uncertain future.
“If Isis stays, there is no way the Christians can return,” Father Boutrous Moshi said from Qara Qoosh, a Christian area south-east of Mosul. “It is up to God whether we return or not. They have not burned the churches but they did set fire to the pictures and the books and broke the windows.”
“ISIS is a lot more radicalized against Christians than the Malaki government is, but the Malaki government has not overseen a necessarily hospitable place for churches and Christians to exist,” says the founder and president of The American Islamic Forum for Democracy.
“The number of Christians has decreased [in Iraq] . . . since the ruthless dictator Saddam Hussein left,” he added.
Iraq “has been listed on our commission’s list of countries of particular concern for a number of years.”
The targeting against Christians by ISIS is more extreme, he said.
“ISIS came out of Syria . . . and they are imposing a radicalized version of Sharia law, which they will enact a genocide by doctrine and by Sharia,” Jasser added. “And this is not just unique to Iraq.”
“Our Brothers in the Islamic State … announcing an inclusive caliphate is a good job,” said Sudan’s Al-Attasam belKetab wa al-Sunna, which broke from Sudan’s Muslim Brotherhood in 1991 to establish a stricter Islamist movement.
“We announce our support to this blessed step,” added the Salafi group, which had called for a boycott of 2010 presidential and parliamentary elections because they were based on a secular constitution.
That’s the general feeling here now: everything is gone. My relatives who fled own nothing anymore. While my niece is happy to take care of her mother and brothers, she needs help from the church. Yesterday my brother went to church to collect mattresses and food for my aunt and her sons and brought them to my niece’s house. It’s very important to have this support from the church now. The support was given by Open Doors through a partner organization.
Sometimes I feel like crying, but I pray that God gives me strength. Christians in Iraq have shown their support for the most affected Christians by holding gatherings and planning marches.
We also changed our Facebook profile pictures to the letter N for Nasrani, meaning “Christians.” In Mosul, this letter was used to mark the Christian houses.
It’s encouraging to see that around the world people are supporting us. We are still proud to be Christians. We will always be Christians.