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Destruction Reigns as Battle for Mosul Begins

November 3, 2016

Many people in towns outside Mosul have no homes to return to, and so far Islamic State jihadists have kept most of them from fleeing.

Separating a young mother from her children and husband, Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists took her hostage when they seized Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul, and the surrounding villages two years ago.

"She was put in an underground hole - she said that for two years she didn't see the sun," the director of a ministry based in northern Iraq's autonomous region of Kurdistan said. "She was grabbed from her husband, and her husband saved the kids and didn't see her after that."

The woman escaped recently when Iraqi coalition forces retook villages outside Mosul, and then she made her way to a makeshift camp for displaced people in Kurdistan, where the director's ministry provides aid, he said.

"She told me that U.S. forces shot that place, and she was able to run away," he said. "They shot that compound and killed those terrorists, and she was able to run away."

"Now they see the true face of Islam," the ministry director said. "A lot of heart-breaking stories will come out of Mosul with people who are ready to leave Islam and beg for Christ to take their lives and give them healing."

The surviving mother is one of the few people who have been able to escape ISIS control of Mosul and surrounding villages as Iraqi coalition forces have mounted an offensive to retake the terrorists' last stronghold. Aided by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, 5,000 U.S. troops, and, on the other side of the city, the mainly Shiite, Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces, the Iraqi Army this week entered Mosul for the first time since ISIS took the city in June 2014 and proclaimed it a base for its caliphate.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to flee as coalition forces liberate more areas, but few have yet to escape to Kurdistan from Mosul's surrounding towns and villages, which are largely devoid of people because ISIS has forced them to Mosul, the ministry director said.

"They're keeping a lot of people hostages - anybody running away, they're killing," he said. "There were two brothers; they killed one of them while he was running out. Most of the people are hostages right now. They want to flee, they just can't. What's happening right now in Mosul is what they did to the Christians; it's genocide. They're killing everyone who's not working with them or not helping them."

United Nations officials have expressed concern at reports that ISIS took 550 families from villages around Mosul as human shields in order to prevent civilians from escaping. Citing an Iraqi intelligence source, CNN reported that ISIS executed 284 men and boys in Mosul on Oct. 20 and 21. The terrorists are widely reported to be using civilians as human shields against the coalition forces.

Iraqi coalition troops found a damaged church building in one of the towns outside Mosul after retaking it from Islamic State terrorists.

ISIS militants have left mines and bombs in formerly occupied areas that coalition forces are painstakingly disarming, and fighting has also destroyed civilian homes and other buildings in predominantly Christian areas such as Qaraqosh. The Christian leader said a young woman was attending one of his ministry's seven-day discipleship trainings recently when her eyes suddenly filled with tears. He asked her what was wrong.

"At that moment somebody had just sent her a picture of her house," he said. "She showed me a photo of her house two years ago, and then she showed me her house now, and it was totally destroyed. She used to live in a very nice house."

Many Christians have lost their homes to ISIS, and even liberated towns are not fully safe for return, he said.

"Qaraqosh is 90 percent liberated, and the other 10 percent doesn't have any soldiers but they have snipers there; ISIS has snipers everywhere," he said. "They have built tunnels from house to house so it's not 100 percent secure."

The 108,000 troops fighting to dislodge the estimated 5,000 ISIS militants could take months, with street-by-street, and in some cases house-to-house, firefights necessary to combat urban guerrilla defense tactics and limit civilian casualties. Coalition forces have begun to encounter civilians waving white flags to keep from being attacked.

In Bazwaya, the last, previously ISIS-held village before troops entered Mosul from the east on Tuesday (Nov. 1), residents hung white flags from buildings and stood outside their homes, their children flashing the "V" sign for victory with their fingers, the Associated Press reported. Hundreds of such families will be evacuated to camps for displaced persons, an Iraqi Special Forces commander told the AP.

"We're getting ready for them - if we start seeing groups coming our way, then we're going to minister to them," the Christian leader said, adding that his organization needs assistance to prepare aid supplies. "We don't have many resources. I don't have a lot of food and medicine and other items, but we're going to do as much as we can."

The ministry, which Christian Aid Mission assists, has been distributing Bibles, leading Bible studies and holding discipleship training sessions for displaced people for more than two years, with many becoming Christians. Before ISIS seized Mosul, it had the reputation as the Iraqi city that was most closed to the gospel, the director said.

"So now they see the true face of Islam, they saw the teachings of Islam and they know what it means to be under the Islamic State," he said. "I believe a lot of heart-breaking stories will come out of Mosul with people who are ready to leave Islam and beg for Christ to take their lives and give them healing."

The ministry seeks assistance to purchase food, clothing, blankets, tents, medicines and Bibles.

"I want to encourage people to supply whoever is working there, whether us or anyone else, to help these people, supply them with the Word of God, supply them with the tools they need to work with these refugees who are coming," the director said. "And if Mosul is going to get liberated, Lord willing, we will be going to Mosul to do some work there. I hope to put a Bible in every house in Mosul and declare Christ as King of kings and Lord."

To help indigenous missionaries to meet needs, you may contribute online using the form below, or call (434) 977-5650. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid Mission, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 444IRAQ. Thank you!

Help meet the physical/spiritual needs of displaced in Iraq
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