Al-Qaeda denies Christian murders in north Iraq

10/13/2008 11:12:00 AM

Al-Qaeda in Iraq has denied responsibility for the recent killings of Christians in the northern city of Mosul, which have driven hundreds of families from their homes.

"We honour the agreement signed in Mosul by Abu Hamza al-Muhajir and prominent Christian tribal chiefs in 2007," said the Islamic State of Iraq`s spokesman in Mosul, Abu Uthman al-Ansari.

The Islamic State of Iraq is made up of a number of insurgent groups, including its predecessor, the Mujahideen Shura Council and Al-Qaeda in Iraq, whose leader is said to be al-Muhajir.

The Islamic State of Iraq has undertaken not to attack those who signed the accord with al-Muhajir, who have paid the Jizia (a tax payable by non-Muslims) in the area we control," said al-Ansari.

Peshmerga militias in Iraqi Kurdistan have rejected charges by Sunnis that they were responsible for the recent murders of Christians in Mosul, which is located in neighbouring Nineveh province.

Sunni groups have accused Kurdish militias of seeking to alter the ethnic composition of northern Iraq.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry on Sunday sent two troop battalions to protect Christians in Mosul and secure their churches. The troops are also tasked with stemming any attempts at "ethnic cleansing" in the area.

At least 12 Christians have been murdered in Mosul over the past two weeks and a number of Christian homes destroyed.