Victimized Christian Communities Mark Another Milestone in Fight Against ISIS
10/28/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed during a US military raid in northwestern Syria. According to a statement by US President Donald Trump, al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest after he was cornered by US forces.
The raid began at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 26. According to reports, the raid took place in the village of Barisha, located in the Idlib province of Syria, where al-Baghdadi was staying in a compound. Once at the compound, US forces engaged in a gun battle with ISIS fighters, but sustained no casualties. After al-Baghdadi was cornered in a tunnel, he detonated a suicide vest.
The death of the fugitive ISIS leader marks another milestone in the fight against ISIS. In June 2014, ISIS and al-Baghdadi burst onto the international scene when several hundred ISIS fighters took over the city of Mosul in northern Iraq. The group then pushed across northern Iraq, displacing and killing many of the country’s ethnic and religious minorities. Weeks later, ISIS declared the creation of the “caliphate” in northern Iraq.
More than 100,000 Christians were driven from their homes in Mosul and towns in the surrounding Nineveh Plains by ISIS militants in 2014. Before ISIS was pushed back and Mosul recaptured in July 2017, many Christians lived as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in cities across northern Iraq. Christians who remained in the towns and villages captured by ISIS were forced to convert to Islam, pay a protection fee, or face death.
For Iraq’s Christians, the news of al-Baghdadi’s death brings mixed emotions. While many are pleased to see another victory in the fight against ISIS, many are still concerned for their community’s future in Iraq.
“We are excited to know the head of evil in Iraq has been killed,” Omar, an Iraqi Christian, told ICC. “We are especially happy to get this news in the midst of the current darkness as protests are still going on.”
“The killing of al-Baghdadi was expected, but ISIS attacks in Iraq, like the killing of the head of the ID in Diyala, are a bad indication about ISIS still being in Iraq,” Fadi, another Iraqi Christian, explained. “That’s an indication that there is someone who will replace al-Baghdadi at some point.”
Christians have lived in Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh Plains for nearly 2,000 years. The violence and destruction wrought by al-Baghdadi and ISIS in these areas have left many of Iraq’s Christians displaced and wondering if there is a future for their community in Iraq.
ICC’s Regional Manager, William Stark, commented, “Although the successful operation against al-Baghdadi is something to be celebrated, it doesn’t change the fact that there is still a long and difficult road ahead for Iraq’s Christians. During ISIS’s occupation of Mosul and the Nineveh Plains, Christian communities were devastated. Churches, schools, homes, and vital infrastructure were left in ruins. There remains much healing and rebuilding for Christians to fully secure themselves in northern Iraq. Both Iraq and the international community must continue to take steps against extremist groups, like ISIS, to make sure they are unable to regain a foothold in Iraq and persecute the country’s already vulnerable religious minorities.”
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