Christians Return to HamdaniyahDownload
© Licensed to London News Pictures. 04/11/2016. Hamdaniyah, Iraq. Father Ignatius Offy, a Christian priest, prays at the fire damaged alter in the burnt out shell of the Syriac Catholic Church of Mar Behnam and his sister Mart Sarah in the recently liberated Christian town of Hamdaniyah, Iraq. The church was vandalised and burnt by Islamic State militants during their two year occupation of the town which was retaken by Iraqi Security Forces during the ongoing Mosul Offensive.
Although located close to a front line, littered with improvised explosive devices and pieces of unexploded ordnance the Christian town of Hamdaniyah has only recently been cleared of ISIS extremists who stayed behind to fight. After the town’s liberation as part of the Mosul Offensive residents and priests of the town are now free to take short trips to assess damage, salvage possessions and clear up the mess left by militants during their two year occupation.
Hamdaniyah, and much of the Nineveh plains, were captured by the Islamic State during a large offensive on the 7th of August 2014 that saw the extremists advance to within 20km of the Iraqi Kurdish capital Erbil. Residents of the town, who included many Christian refugees who escaped there after the fall of Mosul, were then forced to seek sanctuary in the Kurdish areas. In the year and two months of the ISIS occupation churches were burnt, homes were put into use as militant accommodation and bomb factories and some buildings destroyed by coalition airstrikes. Photo credit: Matt Cetti-Roberts/LNP
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