Members of the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) reportedly torched a 1,800 year-old Catholic Church in Mosul, Iraq and have effectively left that city "empty of Christians" as believers fled the area in fear of their lives, according to Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako.
Sources told Shoebat that the ISIS group in Mosul called "Daash" completely burned the Syriac Catholic Diocese and its contents in Mosul. A Chaldean, Syriac and Assyrian Website released photos of the church in flames Saturday.
The torching of the church comes on the heels of the destruction of a number of other Christian monuments in Iraq in recent months including the tomb of biblical prophet Jonah, which was dug up by ISIL militants in the east of Mosul.
Many Christians still in Mosul also hurried to leave the city before Saturday when an ISIS ultimatum that Christians convert to Islam, pay a tax or leave came into effect.
"We left Mosul as we saw that [we] were close to being butchered, and under the threat of armed militants. It was serious and firm," a Christian named Mukhalis Yeshua told Shoebat.
"…But the issue that sparked the pain and sorrow was the checkpoints exiting Mosul as the armed men searched the families, and robbed all their money as search parties from the IS (Islamic Caliphate) searched all the women and robbed their jewelry and money, telling them that such money is Islamic property," added the Christian.
Patriarch Sako told AFP Friday that: "Christian families are on their way to Dohuk and Arbil," in the neighboring autonomous region of Kurdistan. "For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians," he said.
Once home to an estimated 1 million Christians before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted former President Saddam Hussein, church officials now place the Christian community in Iraq at about 450,000.