Christians have reclaimed a small village in Iraq less than a month after Islamic State militants were pushed out and the extremists' black banner was taken down.
CBS News reports that predominantly Christian village of Bakufa in Northern Iraq was overrun by the Islamic State group summer, along with 22 other villages nearby. In response, Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters came in from the north and battled ISIS militants house-to-house. The fighting forced the nearly 500 villagers to flee to Kurdish towns and cities elsewhere in northern Iraq.
After reclaiming Bafuka, Kurdish fighters helped set up a small village militia, made up of about 70 volunteers.
The group, called Dwekh Nawsha, rely on donations from Christian charities abroad and wealthier members of the Iraqi Assyrian community for their weapons and patrol the area around the clock, hoping it will soon be safe enough for families to return.
"We work to protect Christian territories in Nineveh province, particularly the northern part of Nineveh," said Albert Kisso, the leader of the group.
"We are patrolling day and night. We move around these areas and observe the situation," noted the 47-year-old member of the Iraqi Assyrian Patriotic Party
"I only have little bit of experience, but we have faith and in my opinion faith is greater than military experience," Kisso said.
The group also takes extra measures to protect the 200-year old St. Gorgiz Monastery "because this is the beauty of the Mesopotamian civilization.
"It is the priority of Dwekh Nawsha to protect the sons of this region, as well as the region itself - including its monasteries, churches, artifacts," Kisso said.
Bakufa is one of only a handful of Christian cities reclaimed after ISIS took over, forcing tens of thousands of Christians and followers of the ancient Yazidi faith into exile. Currently, there are an estimated 120,000 believers still displaced.
The Kurdish peshmerga fighters, who protect their city still wearing bulletproof vests, say they are proud of what they did for Bakufa and are confident that soon, Christians will be able to return to their homes.
"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."