Washington is evaluating the possibility of air support, but is increasingly dissatisfied with Prime Minister al-Maliki. The attack on the Baiji refinery has disrupted supplies in the north. Bishop Nona warns that supplies and food stocks are at risk, threatening “women and children”. People still “hope for unity” but the danger of “partition” remains high.
Mosul (AsiaNews): The city of Mosul “is still under the control of armed groups,” said Mgr Shimoun Emil Nona, Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, in northern Iraq. The situation has not changed in the past few days, but “conditions in the surrounding area, the small towns in the plain of Nineveh are far worse, and are starting to be worrisome” because people “lack running water and fuel supplies, which ran out three days ago and we fear it will get worse due to high summer temperatures.”
Speaking to AsiaNews, the prelate went on to talk about the fate of about half a million people, Muslims and Christians, who fled in recent days, creating the economic and political conditions for a massive humanitarian crisis.
In fact, after several days, the conditions of the displaced is starting to raise concern – thousands of Christian and Muslim families have had to flee their homes, leaving all their possessions in order to escape the onslaught of Sunni Islamist militias.
“Things are pretty grim for families from Mosul who now have nothing,” the bishop. “We are worried.”
Since yesterday, al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) forces have launched an assault on Iraq’s biggest oil refinery at Baiji, 210 km north of Baghdad. Its output is essential for oil and fuel supplies in the north, which are now running low.
US President Barack Obama is considering a request for help from Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shia, who has called on the US to provide air support.
However, Washington appears increasingly unhappy with Baghdad, especially at the prospect of a breakup into three parts (Shia, Sunni and Kurdish), as Kurdish leaders warned.
Since ISIS launched its offensive, hundreds of people have been killed, many (apparently) in mass executions by Sunni militiamen.
A representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most senior Shia cleric in Iraq, warned against “a real danger which threatens Iraq and its unity”. At the same time, “Religious leaders sense a real danger”.
Contacted by AsiaNews, the Archbishop of Mosul described a climate of uncertainty in the country on the brink of civil war and division.
“Hope for unity prevails but we do not know if there are any high-level plans that seek to partition the country,” he said.
“Certainly we Christians want to live in Iraq, in a united country that respects all of its religions and ethnic components and the rights of everyone.”
In the meantime, the situation in the north is becoming more and more critical, especially in the plain of Nineveh “where people lack water, fuel and basic necessities,” despite the intervention of some international organisations that have begun to operate on the ground.
“The battle at the Baiji refinery has an impact on the entire north, because it is our main source of supply,” the prelate explained.
For Mgr Nona, the most worrying thing is the families, both Christian and Muslim, most of whom have fled Mosul. “They might still have supplies and food for another week. When that runs out, they have had it.” The tragedy, he warns, is that “there is no sign of possible change in the future of these people.”
War “never solves problems,” the archbishop said. What is needed is to “find another way to get together and talk” because what is at stake is “the fate of women and children, Christians and others who today have no future. We must give them answers.”