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AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic
World News

Troops pause in battle to take back Iraqi Christian city

by Antony Bushfield

Mosul was once home to tens of thousands of Christians before IS took control in 2014 forcing them to leave, pay a tax or face death.

Iraqi troops are converging from several fronts on Mosul, they country's second largest city and the last major IS holdout in Iraq.


On Thursday the soldiers paused in their advance to regroup and assess the situation so far.

The offensive has slowed in recent days as the forces push into more densely populated areas, where they cannot rely as much on air strikes and shelling because of the risk posed to civilians, who have been told to stay in their homes.

At an area church in territory freshly freed from the militants' grip, priests rang bells for the first time in two years as the Peshmerga soldiers worked to secure the town.

A convoy of special forces advanced toward the village of Tob Zawa, Monday, encountering roadside bombs and trading heavy fire with the militants

"We are so happy at the liberation," said priest Fr Elkhoury Alfaran Elkhoury at the Mart Shoomy Church in Bahzani, a village near Bashiqa.

"They want to give a message to the world, and that message is damage, their message is destruction, their message is death," he said, highlighting damage to the church made by the jihadists while they occupied the area.

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