Vatican envoy appeals for Peshmerga to liberate Christian villages

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Vatican Ambassador to Iraq Alberto Ortega Martin (L) meets with Masoud Barzani (R) in Erbil, March 5, 2016 (KRP)
ERBIL – Peshmerga will fight to regain all areas under the Islamic State (IS) in northern Iraq to allow Christians to return to their homes, Masoud Barzani said Saturday (March 5).
Barzani met with the Vatican’s Ambassador to Iraq, Alberto Ortega Martin, in Erbil and discussed the war against IS as well as assistance for displaced Christians inside the Kurdistan Region.

“The Peshmerga forces of Kurdistan are determined to keep their promise to take back all areas currently held by Daesh in an effort our Christian brothers and sisters return to their homes,” Barzani said referring to IS by and Arabic acronym.

According to the Kurdistan Region Presidency website, Martin appealed for forces to focus on securing Christian villages and towns for residents to return.

Iraqi, Kurdish and international forces are preparing for operations to retake areas under IS in Ninewa governorate, including the militants’ stronghold, Mosul.

“[Islamic State’s] presence in Mosul poses a threat to not only those who live inside the city but also those who are from the surrounding areas, hence the extraordinarily large number of IDPs in the Kurdistan Region,” Barzani said.

IS targeted ethnic and religious minorities in northern Iraq after seizing Mosul in June 2014, killing and displacing thousands of Christians, Shabaks and Ezidis from surrounding villages and towns.