Hundreds of Christian families and individuals have fled their homes in the militant-seized city of Mosul before an ultimatum to accept extremist militants' options, a provincial security source and witnesses said on Saturday.
All of the Christian families who lived in Mosul, some 400 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, have left the city by Saturday noon, a deadline declared earlier by the Islamic State ( IS) militant group for the Christians to convert to Islam, leave the city, pay tax or die, the security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The Christian minority, who lived for centuries in Mosul and several nearby towns and villages, have already left either abroad or to the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan due to the chaos and daily violence in the past 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 saying (properties of the Islamic State)," the source said.
Earlier on 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 of military age 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 statement said that the self-proclaimed Muslim's new ruler Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has granted the Christians another option, which is to leave the militant-seized city by themselves without their properties by the deadline of Saturday noon.
Iraq has been witnessing its worst security conditions that began more than a month ago when armed Sunni insurgents, spearheaded by an al-Qaida splinter group Islamic State, launched a surprise offensive in Mosul that led to the debacle of Iraqi security forces, and the fallen of a large part of the country's northern and western territories.