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A majority of Christians in Mosul fled Iraq’s second-largest city ahead of a Saturday afternoon deadline issued by Sunni insurgents for them to convert to Islam. If they chose not to convert, they were told they could pay a tax, leave or be killed, NBC News learned. The deadline set by the insurgents, known as ISIS, was noon local time. A Catholic bishop from Mosul told Reuters that 150 Christians had already left in recent days and the ones who wanted to stay and negotiate with the insurgents were urged by church leaders to evacuate. The Christians were reportedly ordered to leave with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.

Many of the Christians who have left are fleeing north, trying to reach either the Arbil or Duhok provinces in the autonomous Kurdistan region, according to sources. The ultimatum is an apparent change from previous reports that said ISIS would not threaten Christians in Mosul, which was seized last month by rebel fighters as they moved toward the capital.

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— NBC News with Reuters