ISIS turned Christian church into training center for Caliphate’s children, says eyewitness

  • Written by:

Lorraine Caballero
The Islamic State turned a Christian church in the Iraqi town of Tel Kaif into a training center for the Caliphate’s children where the kids would stay for a couple of weeks before they are sent to battle, according to an eyewitness.
(REUTERS / Khalid al Mousily)An Iraqi military vehicle is seen next to a wall painted with the black flag commonly used by Islamic State militants, during a battle with Islamic State militants in Arabi neighborhood, north of Mosul.

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ISIS changed the name of the Sacred Heart church in Tel Kaif to “Abu-Talha Al-Ansari” and converted it into a training center for its child soldiers. The kids — some as young as 15 years old — would be brought to the church secretly to undergo training for 15 to 20 days, an eyewitness told Rudaw.

“ISIS had turned this church into the Abu-Talha Al-Ansari headquarter. They knew that the warplanes wouldn’t bomb churches,” the eyewitness said. “ISIS turned this church into their headquarters. They were bringing children from Mosul secretly to this church.”

In addition, a Tel Kaif resident described how ISIS militants were bringing children to a mosque where they pledged allegiance to the caliphate before they embarked on military training. The kids were reportedly made to think that they were on their way to heaven.

While ISIS has already been defeated in Tel Kaif, the signs of war are still evident in the Sacred Heart church. Nevertheless, the great house of worship still stands.

In late October last year, reports out of northern Iraq said military troops were able to enter Tel Kaif and retake the village from ISIS. The day before that, government forces were able to liberate the town of Hamdaniyah several kilometers east of Mosul, Radio Free Europe reported.

Hamdaniyah used to be home to a mostly Christian community before ISIS took control of it in August 2014. It is a strategically important town because of its connection to desert roads southeast of Mosul.

At the time, Iraqi government troops also liberated the town of Bartella with the help of the international air strikes being conducted. Bartella is also important because it serves as a portal into Mosul.