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Christian families flee Mosul after death threats

  • Story Highlights
  • Number of Christian families fleeing Mosul has risen to 2,000, official says
  • 14 Christians have been slain in recent weeks in Mosul
  • Iraqi police patrolling city, particularly Christian areas
  • Authorities say attacks may be prompted by earlier Christian demonstrations
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Nearly 600 more Christian families have fled the northern Iraqi city of Mosul over the past week, amid threats by Muslim extremists to convert to Islam or risk death, an official in Nineveh province said Monday.

An Iraqi policeman patrols outside a church in the Baghdad district of Dora last Tuesday.

An Iraqi policeman patrols outside a church in the Baghdad district of Dora last Tuesday.

Last week, Iraq's Ministry of Immigration and Displaced Persons said 1,424 Christian families had fled Mosul. Nineveh Deputy Gov. Khasro Goran said the number has since risen to 2,000, based on the most recent figures from Nineveh's office of Immigration and Displaced Persons.

Fourteen Christians have been slain in recent weeks in Mosul, which is about 260 miles north of Baghdad. On Friday, Iraqi security forces arrested four men in Mosul in connection with anti-Christian attacks.

Iraqi authorities believe al Qaeda in Iraq is behind the violence. Mosul is one of the last Iraqi cities where al Qaeda in Iraq has a significant presence and routinely carries out attacks.

Iraqi security forces continue to patrol the city daily -- particularly the city's Christian neighborhoods -- and violence has decreased as a result, Goran said. Despite this, more families have fled and very few families have returned, he said.

Authorities said the attacks may have been prompted by Christian demonstrations ahead of provincial elections earlier this month.

Hundreds of Christians took to the streets in Mosul and surrounding villages and towns, demanding adequate representation on provincial councils, whose members will be chosen in the local elections.

Iraqi leaders have expressed concern about the anti-Christian attacks.

A meeting held Monday in Mosul included Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Rafei al-Isawi, Nineveh Gov. Duraid Kashmoula, local military leaders, prominent Christian leaders and other provincial officials.

The officials reviewed the latest developments in the city and called on Christian families to return to their homes.

During the meeting, al-Isawi announced that the Iraqi government has an intelligence report showing al Qaeda in Iraq is behind the killings and displacement of Christians, according to Goran.

Other developments:

• An employee of Iraq's spy service was wounded Monday morning when a bomb attached to his car by insurgents detonated in eastern Baghdad, killing two bystanders, an Interior Ministry official said.

The Monday morning blast occurred in Maysaloun Square in eastern Baghdad, and killed a husband and wife inside an adjacent taxi, the official said

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