mercoledì, febbraio 10, 2016

 

Baghdad arms Christian volunteers in volatile Nineveh plains

By Rudaw

Al Qosh - Iraq - The Iraqi government has offered arms and combat training to Christian recruits who have volunteered to join a new force based in the disputed Nineveh province, military officials told Rudaw.
Nearly 800 Christian recruits are now part of a troop formation that is directly funded by the central government in one of the most volatile territories in Iraq with mixed ethnic and religious populations.
The Nineveh plains, with Mosul as its provincial capital, is located south and west of Erbil and is part of the disputed territories according to the Iraqi constitution which underlines its fate, along with a number of other places, should be decided in a referendum.
“Many young Christians both at home and abroad have been in contact with us and willing to join our force,” said General Bahnam Aboosh who is himself Christian and manages the force. “Christians abroad want to help us financially and they do so too,” he added.
Aboosh said the military unit was formed on their own request and after nearly a year of negotiations. Since last year, some 300 of the recruits have completed military exercises with both the US and Iraq’s armies.
Iraq was home to over 1.5 million Christians before the country plunged into bloody sectarian conflict in the mid-2000. But many left the country after systematic attacks on their neighborhoods in Baghdad and elsewhere.
In the last two years ISIS has destroyed many Christian churches and it displaced tens of thousands of them upon its takeover of Mosul.
General Aboosh who has served in the Iraqi army in the past said his priority now was to protect their areas in the Nineveh plains.
“We are proud to have the first fully Christian military base here where we can train our youths to defend their lands,” Aboosh said, adding that the base was partly funded by wealthy Christians abroad but the Iraqi government had been providing financial help as well.
The majority of Christians now live in the Kurdistan Region after thousands of families left central parts of Iraq following waves of sectarian attacks.
The region’s Peshmerga forces have also trained up to 800 Christian fighters for a future Mosul offensive.
The Kurdish authorities have tried to assure Iraq’s Christians that their rights will be safeguarded in Kurdistan.
Large parts of the Nineveh plains have been patrolled by Peshmerga forces since 2014 where a number of villages were also retaken from ISIS.
“We asked the Peshmerga ministry and the Kurdistan region for permission to establish this military base,” Aboosh said and praised their “good relations” with the Peshmerga in the area.
 

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