Syrian Christian City Still Recovering from Islamist Occupation
Historic churches and monasteries in the Syrian Christian city of Maaloula still haven't recovered from its occupation by Islamic militants two years ago.
Fighters with the al-Nusra Front, an al Qaeida-backed rebel group, captured the town in 2013 and ruled it until Syrian forces drove them out the following year.
The jihadis destroyed Christian buildings, stole and destroyed relics and even kidnapped nuns.
The Russian government recently organized a trip for international journalists to visit the area.
"Look they came even here, look what they have done to our church. All smashed, burned. They have stolen valuable icons and have burned those which have no value. Even the bowl of holy water and clothes of priests were burned, even the stones were broken," said a priest named Ahmed.
Residents recalled how they felt when the Syrian army reclaimed their city from the terrorists.
"We were horrified by what we saw: Everything was ruined, burned and plundered," said Rayan Wehbi, a resident of the once-scenic hamlet. "After the militants stormed the city, they stole all they could and destroyed the rest."