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Iraqi Priest: ‘Trust and hope’ waiting for the liberation of Mosul

MOSUL, Jan 19, 2017–Don Paul Thabit Mekko says the climate of expectation among the refugees from Mosul and the Nineveh plain. A small group has already visited the homes of the eastern sector of the city, liberated from the jihadist presence. Essential to ensure “security” of the liberated areas and find a new formula “of management and control.” In 2016 Daesh has lost a quarter of its territory.

Erbil (AsiaNews) – The “liberation” of the eastern sector of Mosul and the loss of land of the Islamic State (IS) no news “positive” feeding “trust and hope” among the Christian refugees who are waiting, and hoping, of “return to their homes.”However, in many they expect to “see a real change” and still prevails “a fundamental skepticism” about the outcome of the clash. It is speaking to AsiaNews Fr. Paul Thabit Mekko, head of the refugee camp “Eyes of Erbil”, on the outskirts of the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, where they found shelter hundreds of thousands of Christians (along with Muslims and Yazidis) following the rise of YES. The company headed by 40-year old priest from Mosul Chaldean houses 140 families, about 700 people in all, with 46 mini-apartments and an area for the collection and distribution of aid. Added to this are a nursery for toddlers as well as a kindergarten and a secondary school.

“Most of the refugees from Mosul and the Nineveh plain thank the army and the militias as they are doing – says the priest – and now seem a bit ‘more relaxed and comforted. A small group went in the liberated area of ​​Mosul in recent days, to control their homes. On this occasion we brought here in the middle an elderly Christian lady, who for more than two years he lived as a guest of a Muslim family right in Mosul. Perhaps the Daesh militiamen were never interested in her for her age … she was old and not had anything for them. ”

In the metropolis of northern Iraq, the second largest city of the country, by two and a half years under the SI control the Iraqi government forces have “made significant progress” in the eastern districts, although it remains strong resistance militia. From the front of the battle comes the confirmation of the liberation of the eastern part of Mosul, now under the “full control” of government forces.

In its advance, the Iraqi army also took a district near the Tigris River where stands the Great Mosque of Mosul. A symbolic place for YOU, because inside June 29, 2014 Abu Bakr al-Baghadi proclaimed the birth of the “Caliphate” .

In a press conference in Bartella, in the plain of Nineveh, General Talib al-Sheghati announced “the liberation of the left bank …”, although it remains much work to do to clean up the entire city. They do not, however, include further fighting in the eastern sector in the coming days, for possible jihadist pockets of resistance in the area. To complicate the advance of government troops there is the presence of many civilians in the areas of clashes, however, used as human shields by the IS militants.

Meanwhile, according to a study by IHS Markit, a United Kingdom company of expert analysis in the field of security and defense, last year’s militias Daesh [Arabic acronym for the SI] lost about a quarter of the territory from the beginning of their advanced, in the summer of 2014. the jihadist group has sold an area of ​​approximately 18 thousand square kilometers and now controls “only” an area of ​​around 60,400 square kilometers, an extension equal to the size of Florida (USA).

Commenting on the offensive Iraqi army and fighters groups of Mosul, which began in mid-October, British experts say that it could end with a positive outcome by mid 2017. According to IHS Markit, in 2016 the SI has seen a reduction 23% of its territory; a dramatic drop compared to 14% last year, which was already showing the first signs than advancing unopposed the second half of 2014. The jihadist movement, experts point out, he has lost “vital areas” than the “Initial Project” which he aimed at the (re) birth of the Islamic Caliphate.

Government militias as well as work on the front of Mosul “are running to free the Christian town of Tel Kaif, now a Muslim majority,” said Don Paolo. And yet, they are in place in early remediation attempts “to Qaraqosh, Bartella, Karemles where we go every day to check the work.” There are many initiatives, he added, but “you can still see an overall reconstruction project, the area’s rebirth. We are preparing, but without outside help by international organizations, governments and the Church will be difficult to leave. ”

The Christians of Mosul and the plain “want to return to their homes, their land,” says the priest, but “the situation remains difficult time, there is still a safety issue and should be defined in the future of the administrative region “.

After the threat of the SI, he concludes Don Paolo, “hopefully in a stage where we can find together a new way of living together, a cohabitation serious project in which you can enjoy the services without tensions between faiths and ethnicities. It needs a new vision under the profile of administration and control of the territory.” (AsiaNews)