After threat from Islamic extremists, Christians flee northern Iraqi city of Mosul

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Updated: Sun, 20 Jul 2014 01:16:06 EST

BAGHDAD (AP) — Christians have been pouring out of Iraq's second-largest city by the carload, abandoning communities that date back to the first centuries of Christianity.

Islamic extremists gave Christians in Mosul until midday today to convert to Islam, pay a tax or face death. By the time the deadline imposed by the Islamic State expired, the vast majority of Christians were gone.

Most headed for areas in northern Iraq protected by the Kurdish security forces.

Iraq was home to an estimated 1 million Christians before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein. Since then, militants have frequently targeted Christians across the country, bombing their churches and killing clergymen. Under such pressures, many Christians have left the country. Church officials now put the community at around 450,000.

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