"The crisis in Iraq has taken a turn for the worse since June 10, when Sunni insurgent groups took control of Mosul, the second largest city, and then progressed to other areas in the north and centre of the country."
Baghdad, July 19 - Hundreds of Christian families have fled their homes in Iraq's militant-held Mosul fearing an ultimatum to accept extremist militants' options, a provincial security source and witnesses said Saturday.
All of the Christian families who lived in Mosul, 400 km north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, have left the city by Saturday noon - a deadline declared by the Islamic State (IS) militant group Wednesday for the Christians to convert to Islam, leave the city, pay tax or die, Xinhua reported citing a security source as saying.
The Christian minority, who lived for centuries in Mosul and several nearby towns and villages, have fled either abroad or to the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan due to the chaos and daily violence over the past many years.
The latest exodus of the remaining about 375 families of the minority in the city has increased since Wednesday when the IS militants started to put signs on the houses of Christian families marking properties of the Islamic State, the source said.
Earlier Wednesday, IS militants published a statement offering three options for the Christians -- convert to Islam, pay a tax named Jizya, or if they refuse there would be nothing then but the sword.
The Jizya is an old Islamic name of a tax levied on non-Muslim able-bodied male adults to exempt them from participating in Muslim wars.
It also gives permission to non-Muslim subjects to practice their faith and be entitled to the Muslim state's protection from outside aggression.
The self-proclaimed Muslim's new ruler Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi granted the Christians another option, which is to leave the militant-seized city by themselves without their properties by the deadline of Saturday noon, according to the statement.
The crisis in Iraq has taken a turn for the worse since June 10, when Sunni insurgent groups took control of Mosul, the second largest city, and then progressed to other areas in the north and centre of the country.
The IS, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), June 29 proclaimed an Islamic caliphate extending from the Syrian province of Aleppo to Diyala in Iraq, a measure which was rejected by other rebel groups in both countries.