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Christians Join New Militia to Combat ISIS in Northern Iraq

ISIS 

The Assyrian Democratic Movement has announced the formation of the Nineveh Plain Protection Units, a militia largely comprised of Christian volunteers created to defend civilians from ISIS. The NPU also hopes to recapture land that was taken over by the terrorist organization.



There are reportedly between 500 and 1,000 Assyrian volunteers in training with the NPU, which was formed by the Assyrian Democratic Movement, the primary political party of Assyrians in Iraq.

"The mission of the NPU will be first to protect the remaining Assyrian lands from further attacks by ISIS, and then to participate in the necessary military campaigns to liberate the Assyrian homeland of the Nineveh Plain from these notorious terrorists," reads a press release from the American Mesopotamian Organization, which is helping the project by raising awareness and support for the NPU.

"As a means of protection for themselves and other ethno-religious peoples under attack from ISIS, the Assyrian Democratic Movement is now actively recruiting and training young Assyrian volunteers for service in the Nineveh Plain Protection Units, readying them for combat with ISIS," according to the press release.

David W. Lazar, a Baghdad native who runs the American Mesopotamian Organization, said that the program is being funded by "Assyrian communities in the diaspora," specifically in the U.S. and Europe, and plans to eventually seek help from the U.S. and European governments.

"As the NPU grow in strength and size, they will become part of the official security forces of the proposed province, ensuring protection for the lands, homes and lives of Iraq's minority populations," according to the press release.

"They will be part of national guard, a project Iraq is putting together," said Lazar. "We will be pushing for creation of Nineveh Plain Province because it's our right."

The units are being formed by Assyrian Christians out of frustration with the Iraqi government and military who they feel failed to protect them during the most critical times. They specifically hold the Kurds, a group that runs part of northern Iraq, responsible.

"Kurds told Christians: 'Relax, stay in your house, we'll take care of it.' They got them to hand over their weapons, saying, 'We can't have a lot of weapons floating around; that might cause problems,'" claimed Jeff Gardner, who is helping the American Mesopotamian Organization with public relations.

While some Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters have been successful at pushing ISIS out of certain areas, including the village of Bakufa in northern Iraq, ISIS had driven the Christian population out of the area, which is comprised of 95 houses and is located 243 miles north of Baghdad.

However, after they took back the town, the Kurdish fighters began setting up village militia that was made up of about 70 volunteers. The militia, which is made up of many Christians, now patrol the area around the clock to keep the village free so that their families could return.

"We found ourselves helpless," Caesar Jacob, deputy to the Christian militia's commander, told The Associated Press. "We must defend ourselves to defend our land for now and the future."

The Kurdish peshmerga fighters seem proud of their accomplishments in Bakufa.

"We came here to protect our Christian brothers and their homes," said Abdul Rahman Kawriny, the local peshmerga brigade commander. "There is constant cooperation and assistance. We are always together."

It is important to ensure safety once an area is cleared of ISIS, according to Michael Stephens, a Middle East expert at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies.
"One of the biggest problems is that when ISIS leaves an area, it leaves it full of roadside bombs and mines and traps everywhere, which makes the place uninhabitable for anybody who wants to move back," he said.
The placement of bombs along roads, and inside homes and churches.

Both sides of this fight will face a potential harsh winter and displaced people and refugees face an even greater challenge as the U.N. recently announced that its World Food Program ran out of funds and is cutting off its programs in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt.

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