Rebuilding in Tel Skof provides one sanctuary for Iraq’s Christians

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By Rudaw
Right to left: US SPE to the anti-ISIS coalition Brett McGurk, a local priest, the US Consul General to Erbil Ken Gross, and a local official stand inside a rebuilt church in Tel Skof. Photo: @brett_mcgurk
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — A mostly Christian town about 25 kilometers north of Mosul that Kurdish Peshmerga and US Special Forces liberated from ISIS, is slowly returning to life as 4,000 residents have now returned.Brett McGurk, the US special presidential envoy to the Coalition to Defeat ISIS paid a visit to the ancient city of Tel Skof on Wednesday.

“Tel Skof is a mostly Christian town de-populated by ISIS in 2014. ISIS terrorists tried to destroy churches that stood since 258 AD,” wrote McGurk in a series of tweets.
Kurdish Peshmerga and US Navy Seals fought side-by-side against an ISIS-counterattack there last year.
“Visited Tel Skof today just north of Mosul. US Navy SEAL Charles Keating IV sacrificed his life here fighting ISIS on May 3, 2016.”
Peshmerga, backed by the US-led coalition, retook Tel Skof for good in late-October 2016. It is now in the so-called disputed areas, claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad.
About 598,000 internally displaced persons have returned to Mosul and surrounding areas since October 17, 2016, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Wednesday.

“ISIS lost,” wrote McGurk. “Churches are still standing, now being restored and 4,000 people have returned to their homes in Tel Skof over the last six months.”

Still, 841,290 persons from Mosul and surrounding areas remain displaced since military operations to retake the city began, according to the UN.The Special Envoy also met with local leaders and Christian clergy, adding that the coalition is supporting Tel Skof and surrounding towns with stabilization. He also tweeted photos of a electricity substation and tower being rebuilt.

US Defense Secretary James Mattis said on his visit to Baghdad that he believes brighter days are ahead for Iraqis.

“And ISIS is on the run. They have been show to be unable to stand up to our team in combat and they have not retaken one inch of ground that they’ve lost,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

“We’re dedicated from the American side to the strategic framework agreement, which means that we will continue standing by the Iraqi people and their military, make for a brighter future, maintain the stability that will have been earned at a very, very high price,” he added.