A Christian town near Mosul was freed from ISIS on October 20 by Iraqi forces after its two-year captivity under the militant control. Before the militant invasion in 2015, the town had a population of 15,000.
Bartella, located about nine miles from Mosul, has churches which were desecrated by the ISIS, with graffiti written across the walls, interiors burnt with fire, and graves opened in the backyard.
"The church, a foundation and a community gathering place for years, has been damaged and left in ruins. No doubt the restoration work will commence once its citizens start returning," an Assyrian Christian group, A Demand For Action (ADFA), updated Christian Today about the situation in Bartella where the group is cleaning up the churches.
"This marks a very important step towards Assyrian Christians returning to their homes and no longer living as IDPS in camps. Bartella is returned to its owners once again."
Nineveh Plains Forces, a Christian militia, fighting the ISIS alongside the Iraqi Special Forces, put the Cross back up again on the Mart Shmony Syriac Orthodox Church.
It took two days for the Iraqi elite Golden Division free Bartella of the ISIS militants as they posed tough resistance with suicide bombers and cars loaded with improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
"Perhaps they did not want to give it up so easily because of its religious significance," said Capt. Mustapha Muhsen.
Bartella is one of the 50 towns surrounding Mosul, which was conquered since the battle for Mosul began last week.
The forces are now clearing up the IEDs left behind by the ISIS on roadsides, inside churches, and in houses and tunnels.
"The scale of the IED problem is huge here, and will take a very long time to deal with," one soldier told The Australian. "We have got very little specialist equipment. We don't even use mine detectors as the ones we were issued with are faulty. Most of the time it comes down to using two things: our eyes and our fingers."