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First Iraqi Christian Town Saved From The Grips Of ISIS

A church that was partially destoyed by Islamic State is pictured during the offensive to recapture the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants, on October 23, 2016 in Bartella, Iraq. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

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Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter

Church bells rang out from a Christian town in Iraq this week for the first time in two years, after Iraqi forces en route to Mosul liberated it from the grip of the Islamic State.

A small contingent of men from the area who formed a Christian militia joined Iraqi forces in the fight to take back the town of Bartella, reports Financial Times. After recapturing the town, some of them raised a cross on the local orthodox church and began triumphantly ringing the church bells.

“We’re feeling something you can’t describe — that’s how happy we are,” Hussam Matteh, a Christian fighter who is from the town, told FT. “We are now back home in the land of our ancestors, our churches and our heritage.”

All the Christians in Bartella and the surrounding towns in the area known as the Ninevah plains were forced out two years ago when ISIS captured the city. But the fighters have vowed to defend it now that control is back in their hands. It’s one of the oldest Christian settlements.

Another Bartella native, Karouni Satti, added: “I’ve been all over Europe. But to live one more day here is equal to a lifetime over there. There is nothing to match the feeling of staying in our home, which is Iraq.”

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