An Iraqi Christian woman, fleeing the violence in the city of Mosul, sits inside the Sacred Heart of Jesus Chaldean Church in Telkaif.
An Iraqi Christian woman, fleeing the violence in the city of Mosul, sits inside the Sacred Heart of Jesus Chaldean Church in Telkaif.Reuters file

The Islamic State captured Iraq's largest Christian town and surrounding areas on Thursday, sending thousands of panicked Christian residents fleeing towards autonomous Kurdistan and other regions.

Reports indicate that the jihadists have taken control over Qaraqosh, which was housing the most number of Christians in Iraq, including the refugees from Mosul.

Thousands have fled after the Kurdish peshmerga troops in the region were forced out during the overnight invasion by the Islamic State, according to BBC.

The archbishops of the cities of Mosul and Kirkurk have also reportedly confirmed that the Christian town has fallen.

Qaraqosh was one of the last refuges in northern Iraq for Christians fleeing persecution by Islamic State. The historic Christian town is located 19 miles from Mosul.

Following the Islamic State's capture of Mosul in June, thousands of Christians had come to Qaraqosh for safety.

Reports also indicate that weeks prior to the invasion of the town, the Islamic State had cut off all water supplies to the area. 

According to Business Week, after taking Mosul, the militants had made life difficult for the residents in Qaraqosh and the nearby villages by blocking the pipes which connected the communities with the Tigris river.

Left with only a few deep wells, the people in the region were forced to ferry water tankers at huge costs from Kurdish controlled areas, the report stated.

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Yazidis in Sinjar

Meanwhile, the condition of the 40,000 Yazidis in the Sinjar mountains is worsening.

The locals, including 25,000 children, had run to the mountains for cover, after Islamic State militants invaded the Sinajr town on Sunday. Since then, the refugees are stuck in the mountains without food and water.

"The reported deaths of 40 children from minority groups who were displaced from Sinjar city and district by armed violence are of extreme concern," Reuters quoted a UNICEF statement.

The civilians in the mountains, which lie between Sinjar and Tal Afar, now face a hard choice as both towns have been taken over by the militants.

The residents are facing hunger and starvation in the mountains but if they come down, they fear execution by the Islamic State militants.