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Cost of rebuilding Christian villages destroyed by Islamic State could exceed £160 million
The extent of the damage caused by Islamic State fighters in and around Qaraqosh could cost as much as £160 million to repair, according to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
The Catholic charity examined 12 Christian villages in the Nineveh Plains region of Iraq and discovered that almost 12,000 homes had suffered damage and almost 700 had been completely destroyed.
ACN's Middle East Projects Coordinator Fr Andrzej Halemba said that the charity is working with local churches to draw up plans to enable Christians to return but added that it would not be possible without international financial aid.
He said that a number of Christians had already chosen to return to the area despite harsh winter weather and poor infrastructure.
Approximately 1,000 people have returned to the village of Telskuf which was under IS control from August 2014 until November 2016.
Only 66 houses were totally destroyed in the village meaning that most families have been able to return to their home. There is still no electricity there and water has to be bussed in.
As part of their research, ACN asked 1,500 displaced Christian families if they want to return to their villages; 87 per cent said that they might be willing to return.
Fr Halemba said the findings of the survey was good news and that people's willingness to return shows that "hope is returning to Nineveh Plains."
The charity continues to support 12,000 families in the region.
"These people also rely on the Church - they look to the Church as a sign of security and stability - and so ACN has to help religious Sisters and priests to go back with their flocks," Fr Halemba said.
"ACN has to support these people in this decisive and historical moment for Christians in Iraq."
An offensive to reclaim nearby Mosul from IS continues.
According to the UN, at least 307 people were killed between 17 February and 22 March in the fighting. A number of civilians have been used by IS as human shields.
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