ISIS Abducts 197 Mosul Children to Be Used as Human Shields

According to the watchdog organization Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights (IOHR), IS (also known as ISIS or ISIL) recently captured 197 children in western Mosul.

A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa June 29, 2014. The offshoot of al Qaeda which has captured swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria has declared itself an Islamic “Caliphate” and called on factions worldwide to pledge their allegiance, a statement posted on jihadist websites said on Sunday. The group, previously known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS, has renamed itself “Islamic State” and proclaimed its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghadi as “Caliph” – the head of the state, the statement said.

The organization took to Twitter on Saturday to sound the alarm about IS’ abduction of the children, stating that they were taken near the al-Nouri Grand Mosque in west Mosul.

According to the Erbil-based BasNews.com, a source said that the militants intend to use the abducted children as human shields to stand in the way of the advancing coalition troops. IS has been known to use civilians as human shields in Iraq to make it difficult for advancing government troops.

But as the number of civilians who have been killed during the Mosul offensive continue to climb, it was announced on Saturday that Iraqi security forces have temporarily suspended operations to spare civilian lives.

Nearly 4,000 civilians have been killed in densely populated areas since the beginning of the campaign to liberate western Mosul.

Iraqi Brig. Gen. Thaer al-Mosawi told the Turkish Anadolu Agency last week that as many as 3,846 civilian deaths have occurred since the battle in Western Mosul began in mid-February. IOHR cited the same number in a graphic posted to Twitter.

“Those who have fled the combat areas are reporting high civilian casualties,” al-Mosawi explained.

Additionally, al-Mosawi said that over 22,000 Mosul residents have been injured in the conflict, while over 10,000 homes have been destroyed.

It was reported over the weekend that a United States-led air strike on an IS truck filled with explosives caused the deaths of dozens of civilians in Mosul on March 17.

The U.S. military acknowledged on Saturday that it conducted the reported March 17 airstrike in the Mosul suburb of Mosul al-Jadida.

Although reports suggest that the U.S.-led airstrike could have killed as many as 200 people, Col. Muntathar Al-Shamari, the head of the Iraqi Counterterrorism Unit in Mosul, told CNN that estimate is probably an exaggeration.

“When the [vehicle] was struck, it exploded, destroying one or two of the houses next to where families were hiding,” Shamari stated.

Regardless, the U.S. is investigating the reports, as the death toll from the strike still has yet to be confirmed.

According to New York Magazine, residents said that a building in which the basement was being used to shelter over 100 civilians collapsed as a result of the strike.

In addition to the deadly airstrike in Mosul, the U.S. military also reportedly conducted a strike against IS that killed over 30 civilians in Raqqa, Syria, last Tuesday. The U.S. acknowledged to having carried out as many as 19 airstrikes on IS buildings in Raqqa on that day.

Source: Christian Post

Second Anniversary of 21 Egyptian Christians Executed by ISIS in Libya

Family of 21 Martyrs Remain Proud of Their Family’s Sacrifice

Two years ago, ISIS released a video titled “A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of the Cross.” In it, ISIS militants in military fatigues walk behind 21 Egyptian Christian male captives in orange jumpsuits before forcing them to kneel, in a style that emulates the videos released by ISIS of brutal killings in Iraq and Syria. One of the militants then threatened Christians by declaring, “O crusaders, safety for you will be only wishes.”

The ruthless execution of these Christian men shocked the world and left 21 Egyptian families in mourning. Many of the victims were trying to find work in Libya before ISIS kidnapped them. Their deaths and the video are a continual reminder of ISIS brutality toward anyone who does not support their radical ideology.

Many of the family members have chosen to use this anniversary as a time of celebration in spite of the pain associated with the video. The uncle of one martyr noted, “At the beginning, the news of executing our martyrs in Libya was very painful for us, but God has strengthened us and his Holy Spirit has given us the patience and heavenly consolation.”

The pain does not eliminate the pride experienced by many family members who remember that their loved ones were martyred for Christ. One wife recollected how her husband “kept the faith, and was martyred in the name of Christ. His faith was very strong. I’m proud of him. He has lifted our heads up and honored us and all the Christians.” Another family member reminisced, “I’m very happy that my brother is in Heaven with Jesus now. I loved my brother when he was alive on the earth, but now I love him more than before. He was martyred in the name of Jesus Christ.”

These family members refuse to allow their loved ones’ deaths to be in vain. “All of our churches were built on the blood of the martyrs at all times,” remembered one father. “We are very proud of our martyrs. They have lifted our heads and the heads of all Christians. The whole world witnesses them.”

A widow of one of the 21 said that she “hopes that the faith of my son…will be like the faith of his father.”

ICC’s Regional Manager, William Stark, said, “We mourn both the deaths of these 21 Christian men and the brutality behind their execution. ISIS and other extremist groups like them continue to target, torture, and kill Christian men and women who dare to stand up for their faith. This anniversary, however, demonstrates the faith of the surviving family members. Their patience, hope, and love continue to stand as an example for the global Church.”

Source: International Christian Concern

ISIS Abduct ‘Tens Of Thousands’ To Use As Human Shields In Mosul

ISIS fighters have abducted “tens of thousands” of men, women and children from areas around Mosul to use as human shields, the UN human rights office said on Friday.

The jihadist Sunni militants killed at least 232 people on Wednesday, including 190 former Iraqi security forces (ISF) and 40 civilians who refused to obey their orders, UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a news briefing.


Shi’ite militia are about to launch an offensive against ISIS in west Mosul Reuters

“Credible reports suggest that ISIL has been forcing tens of thousands of people from their homes in sub-districts around Mosul and have forcibly relocated numbers of civilians inside the city itself since the operation began on the 17th of October to restore Iraqi government control over Mosul,” Shamdasani told a briefing.

Nearly 8,000 families, of roughly six people each, were abducted in sub-districts including Shura, she said.

“ISIL’s depraved cowardly strategy is to attempt to use the presence of civilian hostages to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations, effectively using tens of thousands of women, men and children as human shields,” Shamdasani said.


The United Nations warned ISIS would use civilians as human shields as they retreated from the northern Iraqi town of Mosul Reuters

Up to 900 jihadis have been killed in the offensive to retake Mosul, the US military said on Thursday. It is thought up to 5,000 ISIS fighters were in Mosul ahead of the assault.

Despite significant territorial gains military commanders have said the campaign could take weeks if not months.

General Joseph Votel, the head of US Central Command, told AFP the offensive had inflicted a heavy toll on ISIS.

“Just in the operations over the last week and a half associated with Mosul, we estimate they’ve probably killed about 800-900 Islamic State fighters,” he said.

Iranian-backed Iraqi Shi’ite paramilitary groups are about to launch an offensive on Islamic State positions west of Mosul, assisting in the military campaign to take back the city, a spokesman said on Friday.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has voiced deep concern at reports that some individuals in the areas south of Mosul have “embarked on revenge killings and have vowed on television that there would be ‘eye-for-eye’ revenge against those who sided with ISIL”, said Shamdasani.

Additional reporting from Reuters.

Source: Christian Today

Dozens killed in bombings in Iraq’s Baghdad

At least 70 killed and over 100 wounded in attacks in mainly Shia neighbourhoods, increasing pressure on the government.


Attacks in and near Baghdad have killed more than 100 people in recent days [AFP]

Three bombings in Baghdad have killed at least 70 people and wounded more than 100, police and medical sources say, as a wave of violence continues unabated in the Iraqi capital.

A suicide bombing on Tuesday in a marketplace in the northern, mainly Shia district of al-Shaab killed 38 people and wounded over 70, while a car bomb in the nearby Sadr City neighbourhood left at least 19 more dead and 17 wounded.

IraqstatsThe Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group claimed responsibility for the al-Shaab attack, which it said was carried out by a man identified as Abu Khattab al-Iraqi.

The bomber threw hand grenades and then detonated a suicide belt, it said.

A spokesperson for the Baghdad Operations Command told state television the attacker detonated an explosives-filled vest in coordination with a planted bomb.

Initial investigations revealed that the bomber was a woman, he said.

Another car bombing, in the mixed Shia-Sunni southern Baghdad neighbourhood of al-Rasheed, killed six and wounded 21, the sources said, in what a military spokesperson described as a suicide attack.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks in al-Rasheed and Sadr City.

However, ISIL has claimed a series of other attacks in and near Baghdad that have killed more than 100 people in seven days.


Tuesday’s car bombing in Sadr City left at least 19 people dead [AP]

“The spike in deadly bomb attacks across Baghdad, in predominantly Shia areas, will outrage anyone who places value on human life,” James Lynch, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said.

“Today’s sickening attacks, carried out in daytime in areas well known to be frequented by civilians such as busy markets, display a total disregard for the lives of civilians and the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law.”

Elsewhere, in northern Iraq, an Australian working for a landmine-clearance charity was killed on Tuesday while trying to defuse a bomb planted by ISIL, three of his colleagues said.

The man was working under the non-profit Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD) in the Daquq area, about 200km north of Baghdad.

Alex Van Roy, FSD programme manager, said the man was killed instantly when the bomb containing up to 7kg of explosives blew up.


ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack carried out in Baghdad’s al-Shaab district [Reuters]

Attacks claimed by ISIL in and around Baghdad last week killed more than 100 people, leading to anger on the streets over the government’s failure to ensure security.

Attacks in Baghdad decreased following a June 2014 ISIL offensive that saw its fighters focus on holding territory and fighting battles in other areas, and large quantities of explosives used in areas outside Baghdad.

Iraqi forces have regained significant ground from the group, but the frequency of attacks in Baghdad has increased in recent weeks.

The violence has increased pressure on Haider al-Abadi, Iraq’s prime minister, to resolve a political crisis or risk losing control of parts of Baghdad.


The attacks have led to anger in Baghdad over the government’s failure to ensure security [Reuters]

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Ancient Christian City in Syria ‘Rising Again’

MAALOULA, Syria – Rape, beheadings and destruction. ISIS and other radical Islamists are committing genocide against Christians in the Middle East.

Yet miraculously, the people of one of the world’s oldest Christian cities have survived. CBN News found that preserving the town’s Christian heritage came with a heavy cost.

Maaloula is an ancient Christian city where the people still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

Located 35 miles northeast of the Syrian capital city of Damascus, Islamic terrorists overran and occupied Maaloula in September 2013.

Because of its ancient history, Maaloula has become a symbol of Christianity. That’s why Islamic extremists wanted to dominate it because it is this symbol for all of Syria. And that’s why it was important for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to regain control of the city.

The Syrian army fought aggressively and liberated Maaloula eight months after the terrorists seized control. But the town had already suffered much hardship and destruction.

Jihadists left St. George’s Church in Maaoula largely intact, but they did their damage to the interior, including some of the church’s ancient icons.

Terrorists tried to erase the city’s Christian heritage by shooting up the icons. They used knives to desecrate a depiction of the Last Supper. They knocked down a statue of Jesus and broke it into pieces.

And the terror inflicted on human lives proved even more devastating.

“They came here to convert the Christians to Islam, and they wanted to destroy Maaloula because it is Christian,” Maryam El Zakhm told CBN News. “They shouted ‘Allahu Akbar!’ They were from Chechneya, Egypt, Libya, from everywhere – Tunis, Algeria. They came with long hair, long beards and scary faces.”

She was at home when Islamic jihadists armed with automatic weapons and grenades approached her doorstep.

“They attacked my house and started screaming ‘come out you Christian pigs!’ I knew they planned to take our daughters, rape and kill them,” she recalled. “So, I thought of killing my daughters and then myself before they could get to us. I then prayed to God instead and asked Him to give us a chance to leave the house.”

She and her family escaped out a back door just moments before the terrorists stormed their home.

Father Toufic Eid is the parish priest of St. George’s Greek Melkite Catholic Church.

“We had a lot of fear, in fact, at that time and people began to leave Maaloula,” he told CBN News. “In fact, six men were kidnapped. We still do not know their fate.”

They also kidnapped 15 nuns and kept them captive three months before they were freed in a prisoner exchange. Other Christians, however, were not so fortunate.

Maryam’s nephew, Sarkis, and two other men hid in the cellar of a house. The jihadists called out to them, pledging they would not be harmed if they surrendered.

“When they refused to convert to Islam, they were killed – three of them,” she explained.

In a show of support for the Christians of Maaloula, President Assad toured the town in April 2014. He walked through the rubble of damaged homes, monasteries and church buildings. He pledged to help restore Maaloula to its ancient beauty.

“So the government felt it was important to care for the Christians and show they are caring for the Christians?” CBN News asked Father Toufic.

“Of course, of course – not only because they are Christians but because Maaloula became in the past a symbol – a symbol of the Christianity itself and a symbol of living together between Christians and Muslims. That’s why Maaloula was important and that’s why it was attacked,” Toufic explained.

Restoration efforts continue at Saint Sarkis Monastery. It’s one of the oldest monasteries in all of Christendom. It was heavily damaged by the terrorists, but today it is mostly restored.

The monastery chapel remains intact. Built in the 4th century on the ruins of a pagan temple, it predates the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.

Missing today are 16th and 18th century icons that once adorned the chapel walls. The jihadists may have either sold or destroyed them.

And Maryam says the terrorists could have easily massacred Maaloula’s Christians, but God intervened.

“I believe prayer had an effect. By your prayers, we were protected,” she said.

While many buildings have been restored, it will take longer for the people to rebuild their lives.

“My daughter has nightmares and screams in the middle of the night, ‘they’re coming to kill us!” said Maryam.

While Father Toufic remains optimistic, he knows the Christians of Maaloula still face many challenges as fighting continues in their country.

“We are rising again. We are rising again…This is a step of faith in fact. To have hope. Pray for us to have more hope, more hope because the difficulties are so much in fact,” he said.

Maryam also requested prayer from Christians worldwide.

“Pray that God will not only restore peace to Maaloula, but to all of Syria,” she said.

Source: CBN News