ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi security forces stormed two churches in the Christian-populated towns of Bartela and Qaraqosh in Iraq's Nineveh Province, claimed a local organization on Thursday.
The Suraya Organization for Culture and Media said in a statement that an Iraqi military unit entered St. George Syriac Catholic Church in Bartella, located on the northern outskirts of Mosul, part of a large multi-ethnic, multi-religious area of the province known as Nineveh Plain. The statement did not specify which unit took part or what sort of force it was.
“The Iraqi military force left the area after disrupting the internet network and destroying devices at the church’s Cultural Center,” the statement said.
According to the group, the church has had internet service provided by the Kurdistan Region from 2005 until the rise of the Islamic State (IS) in 2014, later restored after the liberation of the area and the return of the town's people.
“The church was raided and its internet network disrupted in an unusual way and without any prior warning,” the NGO charged, adding that the unit came from outside of the town, and had since left. According to the statement, the force had previously raided another church in the town of Qaraqosh, also in Nineveh Plain.
Neither Iraq's security forces nor its political leadership has yet responded to the claims.
On Thursday at the NATO summit in Brussels, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, marking the one-year anniversary since the liberation of Mosul, told NATO allies that ongoing support was needed to defeat the threat of the Islamic State (IS) in the region.
“Two days ago was the first anniversary of the liberation of Mosul,” said Abadi. “A crowning victory.".
Editing by John J. Catherine