Islamic State launched a pre-dawn raid on the Christian-majority village Telskuf, just north of Mosul in Iraq on May 3. It was the second time ISIS had taken the village.
Rita, in her early 20s fled the first time ISIS marched into town, and now lives in another Christian village not far away.
“My village was under the control of the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters until two days ago,” she told Clarion Project. “ISIS drove in using a booby-trapped digger truck.
“In order to get through the fortified defenses, the digger first removed what blocked its path and then it just blew up, killing lots of Peshmerga fighters. My relatives were slightly injured in the blast.”
ISIS then entered in large numbers at 5:30 in the morning, Rita said, bringing with them 20 booby-trapped cars, detonating them. The fighters wore explosive belts.
An hour later the coalition aircraft began bombing the area. Subsequently American ground forces arrived, and in the ensuing battle Navy Seal Charles H. Keating IV lost his life.
Kurdish special forces also joined the attack on ISIS.
This video shows a few seconds of the battle for Telskuf:
“They fought for two days to win back our village and succeeded but what they found was a village in ruins.”
This battle and previous fighting in the area has been understandably impactful on Rita and her family. Her current home shook from the fighting in Telskuf, even though it is a 15-minute drive away.
“Fear and more fear. I can’t sleep well. I have nightmares about ISIS. I keep thinking ‘what if they manage to get to us while we sleep’. I feel the pain won’t go away and that I’ll never feel safe.”
Prior to Islamic State’s control of the area, some 10,000 people lived in Telskuf, making it one of the largest Christian villages in the country. Today just 2,500 still reside there. The vast majority fled the country.
The village was primarily Chaldean Catholic.
Rita said there is no chance she will ever be able to return to Telskuf.
You can read an interview with Rita conducted by Honor Diaries a few weeks ago.