Iraqi volunteers who joined government forces to fight against Sunni jihadist militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) hold a position at a checkpoint in Udhaim, in the Diyala province August 6, 2014. (AFP Photo)
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Jihadists seized Iraq's largest Christian town and surrounding areas Thursday, sending tens of thousands of panicked residents fleeing in what is being called a humanitarian disaster, officials and witnesses said.Entirely Christian Qaraqosh is lies between Mosul, the jihadists' main hub in Iraq, and Arbil, the Kurdish region's capital.Tal Kayf, the home of a significant Christian community as well as members of the Shabak Shiite minority, also emptied overnight. Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako, who heads Iraq's largest Christian denomination, said the overnight offensive had displaced 100,000 Christians.A peshmerga spokesman said Kurdish forces were battling ISIS in Qaraqosh and Al-Qosh further north, but no witnesses could corroborate that.The ISIS advance means jihadists are now within striking distance, in some areas barely 20 kilometers, of the official border of the Kurdish region and 40 kilometers from Arbil.At the weekend, ISIS units took over most of the Mosul hinterland which the peshmerga had occupied after government forces retreated in June.
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