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Nineveh militia formed to fight IS

27 February 2015


Hidden: a foreign female fighter who has joined the Iraqi Christian militia Dwekh Nawsha, at the office of the Assyrian political party in Dohuk

Hidden: a foreign female fighter who has joined the Iraqi Christian militia Dwekh Nawsha, at the office of the Assyrian political party in Dohuk

ASSYRIAN Christians in Nineveh province, in north-western Iraq, have recruited more than 3500 men for a militia being formed to join the fight against Islamic State (IS). Most of the recruits are still awaiting training, which is being conducted by a private security firm from the United States.

The purpose is to retake the Nineveh Plains region, from which thousands of Christians were forced to flee when IS units made their rapid advance into that area last June. The new militia - the Nineveh Plains Protection Unit - is being set up in co-ordination with both the Iraqi army and the Kurdish Peshmerga force. Most of the refugees from Nineveh have found shelter in the Iraqi Kurdish-administered region in northern Iraq.

Funding for the force is coming largely from the Assyrian communities abroad - especially in Australia, Sweden, and the US. Press reports say that British Assyrians are awaiting clarification from the Foreign Office on the legality of providing financial backing for such a group.

Mosul is the capital of Nineveh province, and remains under IS control. Reports from there speak of the destruction of the Chaldean Church of the Immaculate Virgin, one of the largest and oldest places of Christian worship in Mosul, which was blown up by IS fighters. The bombing happened this month, but the difficulties of communicating with the city meant that the news took time to reach the outside world.

IS supporters are said to have placed explosives inside the church before detonating them, destroying the building and damaging many others in the vicinity. Last June, when IS forces captured the city, they tore down a statue of the Virgin Mary which used to adorn the tower. At that time, Christians were told that they faced death if they did not convert to Islam or agree to pay a protection tax (jizya in Arabic) (News, 25 July 2014).

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