iraq isis
People walk through the rubble of the Prophet Younis Mosque in Mosul, Iraq, after it was destroyed in a bomb attack by Isis militantsReuters

Students and civil servants in the Iraqi city of Mosul, which has been overrun by Islamic State (IS) militants, have formed an armed resistance group to fight the jihadists.

Reports that some local residents gathered to mourn the destruction at the hands of Sunni extremists of a revered shrine, which is believed to be the tomb of the biblical prophet Jonah, appeared to be the first sign of revolt against IS.

But the eviction of Christians by militants in the country's second-largest city may now have paving the way for a popular uprising. Many Iraqi Christians were forced to flee after the jihadists told them to convert to Islam, pay a tax or face death.

France said it was ready to offer asylum to some 35,000 Christians that lived in the city. Just 20 families from the ancient Christian minority have remained in the city but had to convert to Islam to survive, according to reports.

In response, students, civil servants and merchants have gathered around a group named Kataeb al-Mosul (The Mosul Brigades), according to Anwar Ali, 23.

He told AFP that some people suggested the group be renamed Nabi Yunus Army as a reaction to the blowing up of the shrines. "This campaign of destruction of our mosques, churches and heritage sites is an attempt to suppress Mosul's identity," Anwar Ali told the news agency.

Local Sunni residents initially welcomed the arrival of jihadists on 10 June after years of sectarian policies enacted by Shia premier Nouri al-Maliki. But popular sentiment changed after the razing of the shrines by the iconoclast jihadists.

Some groups have already clashed with the Islamist militants at the holy sites and snipers reportedly killed four IS fighters in three different parts of Mosul, according to AFP.

The majority of Muslims challenge the theological justification for shattering the shrines. Even those who backed IS in the first instance, and the caliphate of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, were left baffled by the destruction of Mosul's historical heritage.

American officials and moderate Sunnis are also working to get support from Sunni rebel groups that have allied with IS despite being non-jihadists, according to the New York Times.

Those groups include former Baathist generals who were once in Saddam Hussein's government, such as ex-military commander Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri. They have joined forces with the jihadists with the aim of overthrowing the Shiite-majority government of al-Maliki but they will likely oppose any attempt from IS to establish an Islamic caliphate.

Not only religious shrines were destroyed in Mosul but also statues of Abu Tammam, a celebrated Arab poet and Mullah Othman, a 19th century musician and poet were razed to the ground. The iconoclastic fury even rolled over a monument depicting a man selling a drink of licorice -- an old Mosul profession.

Bashar al-Kiki, chairman of the Nineveh Provincial Council, told the New York Times that people of Mosul "are intensively angry at IS".

"This volcano of anger will explode soon," he said.