(AINA) -- The push of the Islamic State (IS) from Mosul north into the Nineveh Plain, the last stronghold of Assyrians in Iraq, has created fear and panic in the population, causing a massive exodus from Assyrian villages. The influx of refugees into Ankawa and Noohadra (Dohuk) has overwhelmed the towns. There is a shortage of everything -- shelter, food, water. Displaced Assyrians are sleeping on sidewalks and in open fields.
AINA spoke to several government officials by telephone regarding the crisis in the Nineveh Plain. These same officials have also fled with the rest of the population.
Yesterday at midnight a column of IS vehicles entered Tel Kepe and took control of the city, whose population had already fled north. IS is now marching to Batnaya and Telsqof, which have been abandoned.
All of the population of the city of Alqosh has fled.
The massive exodus of Assyrians was precipitated in part by the withdrawal of Kurdish forces from the Nineveh Plain. With no one left to defend them, Assyrians followed the retreating Kurdish forces.
Baghdede is now nearly completely empty of Assyrians. The exodus began yesterday morning at 2:30 A.M when Kurdish forces announced they were withdrawing. The Bishops ordered all churches to ring their bells to warn the residents to flee and the exodus began.
After the Kurdish forces withdrew IS took control of the city and the surrounding areas, including Karamles and Bartella.
Last night and this morning IS robbed Assyrians as they fled Baghdede.
It is estimated that 200,000 Assyrians have fled the Nineveh Plain, heading north to Dohuk, Sarsink and Zakho and east to Ankawa and Arbel. The following is a list of Assyrian villages and towns which are now completely abandoned:
- Baghdede (Qaraqosh)
- Tel Kepe
Seven Yazidi villages and fifteen Shabak villages surrounding Baghdede have also been abandoned, as well as most small villages in the Nineveh Plain north of Mosul.
Many Assyrians who fled to Arbel began to flee again when IS and the Kurds clashed 25 miles West of Arbel yesterday, they headed northwest to Diana and Rawondoz.
The situation of the Assyrian refugees is critical. There are thousands who fled on foot and are stranded on the roads without food or water, with many handicapped and disabled people. For those fortunate to have cars, they are unable to find shelter and are sleeping in their cars.
The Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East sent a letter Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the Unites Nations, urging action on the crisis in North Iraq (AINA 2014-08-07).