Islamic State fighters seen in an AFP photo.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Jihadi militants are marching toward Tel Keppe, among the few Christian towns in Iraq’s Nineveh province so far largely untouched by the conflict, as Peshmerga forces fight to block the advance.
The majority-Christian town lies about 11 kilometers from Iraq’s northern city of Mosul, which since June has been in the hands of Islamic State (IS/ISIS) militants who call it the capital of their self-declared state.
In Tweets, IS fighters were vowing to take over the town and ‘cleanse it of infidels.’
The latest assault on Iraq’s Christian minority comes just a few weeks after IS issued an ultimatum to Christians in Mosul, demanding they pay a special tax, leave or face execution.
Thousands of Mosul Christians chose to leave, the majority headed for the safety of the Kurdistan Region, leaving an area with centuries of Christian history.
The Kurdish Peshmerga, who just three days ago turned their defense against IS into a massive offensive with newly-received heavy weapons from Western countries – including reports of US and Iraqi air support – are also fighting to protect other minorities targeted by the religious zealots in Nineveh.
The Kurds have been locked in fierce fighting for Shingal, populated by Kurdish Yezidis regarded as infidels by the jihadis.
The United Nations has called the situation in Shingal and other parts of Nineveh “a humanitarian disaster.”
With no Iraqi forces left in those regions, the Peshmerga remain the only barrier between the militants and Yezidi and Christian minorities in the province.
On Monday, Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani ordered more than 10,000 Kurdish fighters into an offensive against IS.
Erbil has officially asked the United States for weapons and expertise to help turn the tide against the expanding al-Qaeda offshoot.