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Iraq church bells toll once again after two years of ISIS occupation

2016-10-24

These are the bells from the city of Bartella in Iraq. For the past two years they did not ring, due to ISIS terrorists who overtook this area and forced all Christians to flee.

The military offensive to take Mosul and the surrounding area back began more than a week ago. A push by the Iraqi army, Kurdish forces and Shiite militias has led to a retrieval of some 30 villages around Mosul. They have freed them from the clutches of ISIS, who left the churches like this.

At the Angelus, the pope recalled the sufferings Iraqis, especially Christians and other minorities, are facing since the onset of ISIS.

The Christian refugees who fled to northern Iraq celebrated the news of the liberation of Mosul, and other important Christian strongholds like Qaraqosh or Alqosh, dancing and singing. Between June and August 2014, these people had to flee Mosul and the plain of Nineveh with the arrival of ISIS. In one night alone, more than 150,000 people fled the second largest city in Iraq. 

However, terrorists do not want to abandon the country without offering as much resistance as possible. Thus, the UN warns of gory practices by these extremists. 

RAVINA SHAMDASANI
Spokesperson, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
"We are gravely concerned by reports that ISIL is using the civilians in and around Mosul as human shields as the Iraqi forces advance. They are keeping civilians close to their offices or places where fighters are located, which may result in civilian casualties. We have verified information that there were several instances since the 17 October where ISIL has forced people to leave their homes in outline villages to head to Mosul."

It is estimated that up to one million people could leave the city in the following days due to the weakening of ISIS authority, which would cause a new humanitarian disaster in Iraq. Therefore, they have already prepared new refugee camps. 

In addition to using civilians as human shields, other reports say that even jihadists have moved from Raqqa, Syria, to fight in Iraq in what is believed to be a long and difficult battle.


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