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Inside an Assyrian Village on the Frontlines With ISIS
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Image 8 of 11Fighters from the Nineveh Plains Force (NPF), another Assyrian paramilitary group, in neighboring Tel Eskof, Iraq. ( Adam Lucente)
Once one of the many Christian villages that dot Iraq's northern Nineveh province, today the tiny town of Baqofah is mostly deserted. Scant electricity flickers in abandoned homes and debris litters the streets. The town's Assyrian residents, adherents of Chaldean Catholic church, are long gone. Most of Nineveh province's Christians fled for their lives when Daesh (ISIS) fighters seized Mosul and surrounding villages in June 2014. Peshmerga (military of Iraqi Kurdistan) forces retook Baqofah and some other Christian towns soon afterwards, but many former residents remain in displaced persons camps in Erbil and elsewhere, afraid to return home. Families continue to leave their homes by the hundreds in the northern Nineveh province as fighting rages between Daesh and a coalition of pro-Iraqi forces in the struggle to retake Mosul from the extremists. Recent small victories in the city's outskirts seem to bode well for the slow-moving offensive, but Mosul remains the grand - and elusive - prize in Iraq's fight against Daesh. Still, there is hope. Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the "liberation" of Fallujah, just 50 kilometers west of the capital Baghdad, after two years of Daesh control. He promised Mosul would be next. Meanwhile, signs of the Mosul offensive are visible in Christian villages like Baqofah, where the only residents are peshmerga and allied forces using the town as a military base. Al Bawaba offers you a look inside Baqofah-a glimpse of what Assyrians will return to once Nineveh and greater Mosul are free of Daesh.
Image 6 of 11A Chaldean cemetery in Baqofah, Iraq. Many of Baqofah's residents were adherents of the Chaldean Catholic church. ( Adam Lucente)
Image 7 of 11Dwekh Nawsha soldiers in Baqofah, Iraq. Today, the only people who remain in Baqofah are peshmerga and Dwekh Nawsha soldiers, including a handful of western volunteers. They hope to retake Mosul and its outskirts from Daesh. ( Adam Lucente)
Image 10 of 11A store in the internally displaced persons Ankawa Camp 2 in Erbil, Iraq. Many Christians from who fled Daesh in June 2014 remain in such camps as they await the region's liberation. ( Adam Lucente)
Image 1 of 11A view of the Assyrian Christian village of Baqofah, Iraq from atop Dwekh Nawsha's base. Dwekh Nawsha is an Assyrian paramilitary group allied with the peshmerga. ( Adam Lucente)

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