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Christians flee jihadist ultimatum in Iraq's Mosul

Iraqi Christians who fled the violence in the northern city of Mosul, pray at the MarAfram church in the village of Qaraqush in the northern province of Nineveh, on July 19, 2014Hundreds of Christian families fled their homes in Mosul Saturday as a jihadist ultimatum threatening their community’s centuries-old presence in the northern Iraqi city expired. President Jalal Talabani flew home after 18 months abroad for medical treatment but restricted access at the airport in his Kurdish fiefdom of Sulaimaniyah offered no clue as to his health. There was little hope in any case that the 80-year-old’s return could buck Iraq’s downward spiral as bickering politicians prepared to pick his successor and the country’s worst crisis in years reaped its daily harvest of dead and wounded. An AFP correspondent in Mosul, the main Iraqi hub of the Islamic State (IS) group’s proclaimed “caliphate”, said Christians squeezed into private cars and taxis to beat the noon deadline.

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