In a news release issued by the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Staffan de Mistura, expressed his “shock and outrage” at the continuing targeting and killing of religious minorities.Some 2,200 families, or over 9,000 people, had fled Iraq’s second largest city due to the upsurge in attacks, threats and intimidation in early October. On Tuesday, the UN refugee agency reported that some of the Christian families that had fled were beginning to return after hearing that the security situation had improved. Iraqi security forces have recently strengthened their presence in the area, with up to 35,000 army and police personnel in Mosul city alone, resulting in a decline in the number of explosions and arbitrary killings, according to UNAMI.Mr. de Mistura said Mosul has historically been and must remain the cradle of religious and ethnic diversity, reiterating the UN’s position that respecting and guaranteeing the rights of minorities in Iraq is “absolutely fundamental to a stable and democratic future for the country.” He called on the Iraqi Government to do everything in its power to safeguard the human rights of Christians, Yezidis, Shebeks and other minorities – all of whom have been the victims of terrible attacks – and to ensure that those responsible for these attacks are swiftly brought to justice. The Special Representative also urged local authorities, as well as the Kurdistan Regional Government, to assist in protecting the rights of minorities and their religious identity, as well as in ending impunity for these criminal attacks. 13 November 2008The top United Nations official in Iraq has urged the Government to do all it can to protect the country’s minorities, after two Christian women were killed in the northern city of Mosul, just hours after some families displaced by recent violence began returning to their homes.