Airstrikes offer Baghdad Christians hope against ISIS terrorism
Late last month, Islamic terrorists detonated a double car bombing in the predominantly Christian neighborhood of al-Ghadir in eastern Baghdad that killed and maimed dozens, including children.
Two cars laden with explosives were parked near a busy mini-mart and left by a terrorist who detonated the bomb with a remote-controlled device. A second car exploded after people gathered to assist the injured.
"Many innocent people died," said Miriam, a Christian woman who lives by herself on the same block where the cars exploded. "It was so crowded on the streets. All of the people get what they need from those shops."
Photos of a young boy who was blown up in the explosion were posted on a community Facebook page describing the bombings. Also noted were a restaurant chef killed in the first explosion and a schoolteacher and her husband who perished in the second one.
But air strikes by the U.S. and allies in the region have started to make a difference.
"Now the situation is flipped," Miriam said. "Now the U.S. troops are hitting ISIS, I think it's better, but it takes time. People lost the trust in everything and everyone."
An international expert told NBC news that reports of extreme violence and gruesome acts are credible and will be exposed as the fighting intensifies.
"When ISIS is pushed, if they are pushed back, we're going to be dealing with mass graves for a long time and suffering of a community on a monumental scale," said Fred Abrahams, a special adviser to Human Rights Watch.
Despite the recent hope, the Christians who remained in Baghdad, instead of fleeing north to Kurdistan or Turkey, still are cautious not to leave what protection is offered by the confines of their homes, Miriam said.
"I don't know which street is more safe to go on," Miriam said. "I'm expecting that at any moment there is a car to explode suddenly."
The crisis in the Middle East intensified over the summer when ISIS forcibly displaced about 1.5 million Iraq Christians and other non-Muslim minorities from their homes. President Barack Obama has committed to air strikes on ISIS objectives but stopped short of promising combat troops on the ground.
Miriam asked God for strength and protection for her and the Iraqi people—and for the destruction of ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
"Dear God, come to spread your peace upon us. Cover us with your holy blood. Destroy the enemy. Protect us. Please, Lord for your will to be done—if it's to not to stay in this country, please, make a way to leave, safely."
The UK Independent reported Monday that "ISIS fighters are reportedly just one mile away from Baghdad as reports emerge of al-Qaida militants bolstering their ranks in Syria."
Citing the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, the Independent said ISIS' entry into Baghdad was imminent.
"'They said it could never happen and now it almost has,' a [FRRME] spokesperson said. 'Obama says he overestimated what the Iraqi Army could do. Well you only need to be here a very short while to know they can do very, very little.'"