Islamic State jihadists who took over large areas of northern Iraq overnight have forced thousands of Christians to flee and occupied churches, removing crosses and destroying manuscripts, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako has said.
“(The Christians) have fled with nothing but their clothes, some of them on foot, to reach the Kurdistan region,” Patriarch Sako told AFP.
“This is a humanitarian disaster. The churches are occupied, their crosses were taken down,” said Sako. He added that up to 1,500 manuscripts were burnt.
“We’re just receiving the information right now. We’ve just heard that people over the last 24 hours have been extracted and the UN is mobilising resources to ensure that these people are assisted on arrival,” David Swanson, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told Reuters.
It is a “tragedy of immense proportions”, he said.