An Assyrian Christian militia fighting the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL) near Mosul, Iraq may not be able to keep the jihadist group away for much longer because it is running out of ammunition, according to a British news outlet.
“We have only 90 rounds for each of our Kalashnikovs and we haven’t the money to buy more ammunition,” Sergon, a commander of an ill-armed group of two dozen Christian militiamen who was identified by one name only, told The Independent.
“Aside from their lack of weapons, the militiamen have only one vehicle, no electric generator and depend on the Kurdish Peshmerga [fighters] for food,” adds the article. “Overall, the meagre resources of the so-called Dweekh Newsha militia, 300-strong and founded last August to show that Iraqi Christians can defend themselves, only emphasizes their vulnerability in the face of thousands of well-equipped ISIS fighters.”
The militia resides in the deserted village of Bakufa, 18 miles to the north of ISIS-controlled Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. ISIS captured and later lost Bakufa last August. All of the 1,500 Assyrian Christians who once called the village their home were driven away in the process.
“Since the fighting during Isis’s offensive last August, there has been near stalemate on this section of the front,” reports The Independent. “The Peshmerga regained Bakufa and Tel Eskoff, a small Assyrian Christian town nearby that was once home to 10,000 people, but is now deserted.”
“The Christians of Nineveh Plain around Mosul, who lived here for 1,800 years, have become refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan or in Turkey, Lebanon or further afield,” adds the London-based newspaper.
ISIS has established a presence a mile away from Bakufa.
U.S.-led airstrikes have helped the Christians and the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in Bakufa keep ISIS at bay outside of the village. Besides daily ISIS mortar fire and U.S.-led airstrikes, there has been no heavy fighting for the past two months in the region.
The U.S. has approved plans to train and equip Iraqi forces and their Kurdish counterparts as well as “moderate” rebels to take on ISIS in Syria.
Up $1.6 billion to train and equip fighters against ISIS is expected to be doled out under the U.S. National Defense Authorization Act, approved by Congress in December.
The funds are supposed to go to “local forces that are committed to protecting highly vulnerable ethnic and religious minority communities in the Nineveh Plain and elsewhere from the ISIL threat,” according to a statement attached to the legislation.
It is unclear if any of those funds have reached the Christian minorities of the Nineveh Plain.
“The longer [the Christians] are away from their old heartlands in and around Mosul, the less likely it is that they will ever return. The houses in Bakufa and Tel Eskoff are intact, but they have all been looted by Peshmerga as well Isis,” reports The Independent.
Some Christian militias and Peshmerga fighters are pessimistic about U.S. plans to train between 20,000 and 25,000 Iraqi forces and Peshmerga fighters to retake Mosul from ISIS around springtime.