Iraqi Assyrian Christians form militia to fight Islamic State

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A map of the proposed Nineveh Plains region. Credit: Courtesy of Ramy Jajo.
( Iraqi Christians have formed a militia to take back their Nineveh Plains homeland from the Islamic State terror group.
According to the U.K.-based Catholic Herald newspaper, Iraqi Assyrian Christians have formed the Nineveh Plains Protection Units (NPU), which has about 500 Assyrian Christians stationed in Christian towns in the Nineveh plains to defend them against Islamic State. An additional 3,000 Christian men are registered to be trained, while 500 are already being trained for combat.

The NPU was founded by the Assyrian Democratic Movement, the largest ethnic Assyrian political party in Iraq. Last summer, Islamic State jihadists conquered wide swaths of northern Iraq, displacing more than 1.8 million Iraqis, including Yazidis, Christians, and other minorities.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the new Christian militia has been permitted to train at an old U.S. military facility outside the city of Kirkuk in northeastern Iraq. It is unclear whether or not the Christian militia will be able to obtain funds from the U.S. government. Approved last December, the U.S. National Defense Authorization Act named local security forces in Iraq as potential beneficiaries of up to $1.6 billion in aid to fight Islamic State. The funding should go to “local forces that are committed to protecting highly vulnerable ethnic and religious minority communities in the Nineveh Plain and elsewhere,” the legislation said.

Currently, the NPU is largely aided by Assyrian diaspora communities in the U.S., U.K., and Sweden.