Tags: Iraq | ISIS/Islamic State | iraq | christians | islamic state | Chaldean Catholics | defense authorization act

WSJ: Iraqi Christians Training to Reclaim Towns Lost to ISIS

Wednesday, 04 February 2015 08:26 AM

Hundreds of Christian Iraqis are training at a former U.S. military base deep in the hills of northeast Iraq as they prepare to recapture towns from the violent Islamic State (ISIS) fighters, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The embattled Christians have formed a new militia after their families were abandoned by government troops last year when the Islamic State ran rampant across vast areas of Iraq and Syria, capturing several Christian villages.

The unofficial militia is hoping to keep its towns and villages safe from Sunni extremists long after they have been taken back from the Islamic State, the newspaper reports.

Last summer, Kurdish forces were meant to defend the towns against the Islamic State onslaught, but fell back under a bombardment from the militants. Around 30,000 Christians fled the area, leaving just one Christian town and three small villages not controlled by ISIS.

Now more than 2,000 young men have joined the Christian militia and are learning to use rifles and other weapons during exercises at the ex-U.S. facility on the outskirts of Kirkuk.

But the makeshift army is short of funds and is hoping that it will soon receive money from the U.S. government, the Journal reported.

"I'm excited to retake our villages, but the only way to do this and protect our people is by taking up weapons and fighting," said Fadi, a 19-year-old fighter.

The U.S. National Defense Authorization Act, passed by Congress in December, plans to dish out up to $1.6 billion to train and equip fighters against Islamic State, said the Journal.

And a statement attached to the legislation says that the funds should go to "local forces that are committed to protecting highly vulnerable ethnic and religious minority communities in the Nineveh Plain and elsewhere."

Iraqi Christians, such as the Chaldean Catholics of the ethnic Assyrian origin, have a close relationship with some U.S. lawmakers due to the expatriate community reaching out for assistance, the newspaper said.

Former Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, who retired in December, helped to add the language to the authorization that specifically included the Nineveh area, home to such minority groups as Yazidis and ethnic Shabak, which he hoped would result in U.S. funding for the Christians fighting the Islamic State.

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Hundreds of Christian Iraqis are training at a former U.S. military base deep in the hills of northeast Iraq as they prepare to recapture towns from the violent Islamic State fighters, The Wall Street Journal reported.
iraq, christians, islamic state, Chaldean Catholics, defense authorization act
372
2015-26-04
Wednesday, 04 February 2015 08:26 AM
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