Iraqi Christians return to ISIL’s wreckage

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Iraqi forces retook Qaraqosh from ISIL late last year, but for residents finally returning home, the ordeal continues.
Claire Thomas | Battle for Mosul, ISIS, Iraq, Middle East
The Batlos family fled Qaraqosh more than two years ago, when ISIL fighters captured the city. They recently returned home for the first time, only to discover their town in ruins.

As the battle rages to retake Mosul, the last Iraqi stronghold of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group, members of Iraq’s Christian minority have started returning to the recently liberated town of Qaraqosh.

The Batlos family, who are Assyrian Catholics, fled Qaraqosh on August 6, 2014, after Kurdish forces warned them that ISIL would soon seize the city. Leaving all of their belongings behind, the family travelled to nearby Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region.

In December 2016, less than two months after Iraqi forces retook Qaraqosh from ISIL, the Batlos family returned home to discover large areas of the town in ruins, with no power or water supply. The threat of hidden improvised explosive devices planted by ISIL fighters continues to loom large.

“We are still scared here,” Haitham Zeia Batlos told Al Jazeera.