Iraqi Kurdish leader vows to return displaced Christians home
Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud al-Barzani renewed his commitment to Christian Iraqis that were forced to flee the Islamic State group, vowing to return the displaced community to their homes.
Addressing the community in a letter on the occasion of Easter, al-Barzani congratulated the "Christian brothers and sisters of Kurdistan, Iraq and the world" adding "we thank God for his blessings to implant in us a culture of coexistence and the protection of humanity, love and peace - a culture that has deep historical roots in our rich society" he said.
"Extremism and terrorism will never be able to weaken us and sow discord within different factions of our Kurdish societies," he declared.
The PM went on to stress his commitment to "continue living as one or dying as one with heads held high."
"We see today the enemies of God and humanity being defeated and continuing to fail as they fight our forces. God willing, our Christian brothers will return home soon after we defeat the terrorists."
Al-Barzani stressed the need for efforts to guarantee a peaceful life for all communities in the northern Iraq region while assuring "our Christian brothers will always be equal to other factions of our societies under the umbrella of coexistence".
The message comes as Iraqi forces prepared to launch a long-awaited operation to retake the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State militants.
The US-coalition-backed Iraqi military, recaptured several villages on the outskirts of the town of Makhmour, east of Mosul, on Thursday and hoisted the Iraqi flag there, according to the spokesman for the Joint Military Command, Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool.
"US artillery flattened IS strongholds in those villages before and during the operation," Lt. Col. Salah Khaled, member of the Iraqi army's 15th division, told The New Arab.
According to tribal leader Mohammad al-Shamari Thursday's operation aims to pave the way for the battle to liberate Mosul.
"The battles to liberate the sourthern villages will be followed by the liberation of the entire province," he told The New Arab.