Middle East and North Africa

Christians at risk as Shia militia shell towns in northern Iraq

Kurdish fighters. Credt AFP

An Iran-backed Shia militia is shelling Christian towns in northern Iraq putting over 15,000 Christians and Yazidis at risk.

A Christian organisation, the Soraya Civil Society, has stated that Christian villages in the Fish-Khabur area now face a “serious threat” from the militia, who are vying with Kurdish forces to claim disputed territory on behalf of the Iraqi government.

Fighting between Kurdish Pashmerga and forces supported by the Iraqi government has already displaced Christians and enabled Islamic State to regain territory. Clashes began following the Kurdish independence referendum held in September, in which voters elected for Kurdistan to have complete independence from Iraq, a result not recognised by the Baghdad government.

Despite holding two rounds of talks in an attempt to diffuse tensions, the predominantly Shia Iraqi government and Kurdish administration remain at loggerheads. Iraqi forces seized Kirkuk and its valuable oil fields earlier this month. Ousting the Kurds from Fish-Khabur would give the Iraqi government control of an oil pipeline which is used to export crude to Turkey.