la-croix.com, Jérémy André (Qaraqosh, Iraq), 2016-10-23
As has been repeatedly reported, the largest Christian city in Iraq was liberated on Saturday, October 22, 2016. The city has been occupied by the Islamic State since 2014. The newspaper reporter Cross followed the 9th Corps of Iraqi army army.
A soldier holds a cross in Bartella, a Christian town near Qaraqosh, also liberated in recent days. / © Goran Tomasevic / Reuters
Qaraqosh is released! The long-awaited liberation of the city of Qaraqosh. This city located on the eastern outskirts of Mosul is an iconic city as it was once the largest Christian city in Iraq. A few days before the arrival of the Iraqi army, the news broke on social networks. On Tuesday, October 18, the BBC reported that the city had been liberated, prompting Christians in Erbil to take to the streets in celebration. Erbil is the capital of the Kurds of Iraq, where many refugees live. In 2014, before the arrival of the refugees, the city had 75,000 inhabitants.
“Christians are our brothers. We don’t let anyone get hurt. »
Finally, on Saturday October 22, Iraqi forces took the town. At noon, the corps of General Qassem, commander of the 9th Army, assembled at the base of Gwer, 50 kilometers southeast of the city of Mosul. The corps accompanied by the tank is the warrior corps of the Iraqi army.
The army was also known as the “Shield of Wood”. The flag with the symbol of the Muslim cleric Hussein flies above the city, it is a symbol of the Shiit Muslims, most of whom come from the South like the majority of the population here.
From the second day, they occupy the southeast axis. “We are three friends of Nassiriya,” said Firas, who was returning to Qaraqosh. “We are neighbours. My name is Ouissam,” said the person sitting next to me. Last week was terrible. “The third one is Qais, you are a cannonball. hospital yesterday. During the attack, he was in the lead tank convoy. Your group is shelled. He lost a leg. You will be operated on today. The 9th army attacked the forces of the Islamic State for six days for 25 kilometers to Qaraqosh “Christians are our brothers. We don’t let anyone get hurt,” Firas said.
There’s not a single piece of glass left
After two hours outside, the dust from the convoy indicated that a legion of tanks and infantry was outside the city. The commander of the 9th army in thick sunglasses appeared accompanied by a famous guest: Riad Jalal Tewfiq, commander of the Iraqi infantry. On the second day, he gave a speech in front of television cameras, in the heart of the Christian city.
City of Qaraqosh at 3:30 p.m. The streets are littered with rubbish. With the air raids, not a single glass was left untouched, in the former military center, which were once important facilities, it is now just a pile of rubble. All the beautiful Neo-Babylonian style houses were looted, some burned down. But the buildings are still there. About a hundred meters to the left is a small white tower. And on the main avenue there is a bell tower, then there are two, there are three bell towers. And the arches, one green, one blue, one red. Cannot enter churches or other buildings due to possible landmines.
“Everything is destroyed but the church is still standing!”
The sun was setting gradually, it was necessary to follow the army quickly, they were posted in the middle of the road. “The Christian towns were liberated, yesterday Bartella, today Qaraqosh, the infantry commander of the Riad announced happily on local television channels. You see the churches behind me, Saint-Jean, Saint-Schmoni and what is the name of this church? One of the badges reminded her: “Church of the Immaculate Conception!” »
Mr. Neshwan Sami, Commander of the Nineveh Plains Guard (NGPF), a Christian paramilitary unit, as soon as he entered the city, rushed to visit the Immaculate Conception Church. Now he is welcomed by everyone. “It’s the most beautiful day of my life. The interior was completely destroyed, but the church was still standing. One of them, written in black, read: Property of the Islamic State.”