Blankets and Food Sent to Christians Fleeing Mosul

By Mazin Yahya | October 17, 2008 | 8:28 AM EDT
Baghdad (AP) - The Iraqi government sent blankets and food Thursday to help thousands of Christians who have fled a violent campaign against them in the northern city of Mosul.
The recent killings in Mosul, widely blamed on al-Qaida in Iraq, coincided with stepped-up lobbying efforts by Christians to ensure their representation in upcoming provincial elections in the primarily Muslim country.
The president of the semiautonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, Massoud Barzani, said the omission of a minority quota in a recently passed elections law was a "big mistake." He called on parliament to pass a new law that would restore it.
Barzani also promised to help the federal government in its "efforts to provide the equivalent protection for our Christian brothers" and to "secure for them all kind of assistance and protection." Kurdistan borders Ninevah province, which includes Mosul.
More than 1,400 families have fled Mosul to nearby villages and towns, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration. Emergency aid was dispatched to help humanitarian organizations struggling to care for the Christian refugees, Minister Abdul-Samad Rahman said.
The U.S. military also reported two American troop deaths, including a soldier who was killed Thursday in a rocket or mortar attack in Diyala province, north of Baghdad. The other soldier died of noncombat causes late Wednesday in Baghdad.
At least 4,185 members of the U.S. military have died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
Iraqis in Baghdad, meanwhile, donned face masks and dozens flooded hospitals with respiratory problems as a heavy sandstorm blanketed the capital.
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