Iraqi and Kurdish forces are going town-by-town in the multi-front advance on Mosul, liberating villages as they go and finding varying degrees of ISIS resistance along the way.
Bartella is an Assyrian town less than half an hour east of Mosul on Iraq’s Highway 2. Once home to about 20,000 people, it was largely left a ghost town when the Christians fled to Kurdistan after ISIS invaded in August 2014.
The town was liberated Thursday by Iraqi special forces and the Nineveh Plain Protection Units, an Assyrian Christian militia.
Iraq’s elite counterterrorism forces inspect the church of Saint Shmoni, damaged by Islamic State fighters, in Bartella, Iraq, on Oct. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
Iraq’s elite counterterrorism forces look around the church of Saint Shmoni, ransacked by ISIS. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
A statue of Virgin Mary is placed in a street in Bartella. Another statue of Mary was found to have been beheaded by ISIS fighters. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
A mural defaced by Islamic State militants is seen outside the Saint Shmoni Church. (Rex Features via AP Images)
Arabic that reads “property belonging to Islamic State” is written on a house of a Christian man in the town of Bartella. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
An improvised explosive device, which was set by Islamic State militants to destroy Saint Shmoni Church in Bartella, rests along a wall after being rendered safe by Iraqi Army engineers. Although ISIS militants were pushed back a large amount of improvised explosive devices are still being found in the town’s buildings. (Rex Features via AP Images)
A wooden cross erected by Iraqi counterterrorism troops and draped with the Iraqi flag is seen on a roof of Saint Shmoni Church in Bartella. (Rex Features via AP Images)
A member of Iraq’s counterterrorism unit rings the bell in the church of Saint Shmoni. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)