The Nineveh Plain Protection Units (NPU), an Assyrian Christian defense force in northern Iraq, liberated the Shabak village of Badaneh from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (IS) last week. The NPU, composed of Assyrians who have volunteered to fight IS, launched the attack 20 miles southeast of Mosul near Baghdede, a city that was once the largest Christian town in Iraq with an Assyrian population of 50,000.  

The Assyrian troops were able to enter Badaneh with the support of US-led coalition air strikes—the first of their kind to directly support Assyrian fighters reclaiming indigenous lands in Iraq. This was done without any participation of non-Assyrian forces. NPU forces were able to penetrate the defense of IS, then clear the village of its fighters. General Behnam Aboush said the village is now under the control of NPU forces, but will be returned to its native Shabak inhabitants, who also are a unique ethnic and cultural minority native to the Nineveh Plains. The NPU also repelled a concurrent attack by IS militants in the village of Telskuf, where IS attempted to break the NPU defense with car bombs. The Assyrian troops claim to have killed 150 IS militants during the attacks.

When IS spread across northern and western Iraq in the summer of 2014, Assyrian Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities, such as Yezidis and Shabaks, were brutally targeted and forced to flee their homes to survive. Since 2014, Assyrian forces have hoped to receive coalition support in order to maintain equality among all ethnic groups in Iraq battling IS.

Prior to these battles Assyrian fighters received training from American private military trainers, according to NPU officials. Colonel Jawat Habibi Abboush, the deputy commander of the NPU, has said U.S. military personnel have trained his men. Colonel Abboush believes the coalition’s support of Assyrian fighters will prevent further marginalization of Assyrians in their native land. “This is our country, we had a civilization here for a thousand years and we are still citizens of this country,” he said to the AP. The NPU was founded to protect Assyrians from IS forces after the collapse of the Iraqi Army and the retreat of the Kurdish Peshmerga in northern Iraq. Members claim its purpose is only to protect Christian communities, maintain the dignity of the Assyrian people, and liberate the Nineveh Plains from IS.

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