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ICC Note: In Iraq, upwards of 200,000 Christians had fled their homes, leaving entire villages empty. Slowly some have been returning, working together with Kurdish forces to clear the areas and drive out ISIS fighters. Being able to return home is a major victory for Iraq’s Christian community, but the fear of an ISIS return remains.

11/13/2014 Iraq (CBS News) The flag of an Iraqi Christian minority party is hoisted high over the village of Bakufa in northern Iraq, less than a month after militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) were pushed out and the extremists’ black banner was taken down.

The predominantly Christian Assyrian hamlet of 95 houses that once had about 500 people, located some 243 miles north of Baghdad, was overrun by the Islamic State group during its shocking blitz this summer, along with 22 other villages nearby.

In a counter-offensive, the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters swept in from the north, battling ISIS house-to-house. The fighting forced the villagers to flee to Kurdish towns and cities elsewhere in northern Iraq.

Once Bakufa was retaken, the Kurdish fighters helped set up the village militia, made up of about 70 volunteers and known as Dwekh Nawsha, or “self-sacrifice” in Assyrian.

The men of Dwekh Nawsha now patrol Bakufa round-the-clock, in the hope that the village stays free long enough so their families can return.

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