Christians pray hillside monastery sanctuary from ISIS - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Christians pray hillside monastery sanctuary from ISIS

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A 1,700-year-old mountain monastery provides a place of refuge from ISIS terrorists rampaging across Iraq.  (Source:CNN) A 1,700-year-old mountain monastery provides a place of refuge from ISIS terrorists rampaging across Iraq. (Source:CNN)
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NEAR MOSUL DAM, IRAQ (CNN) - The radical militant group ISIS lost a valuable asset on Monday.

Two weeks after its fighters seized the Mosul Dam it is now back in the hands of Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

They got a huge boost from the U.S. military which carried out another 15 airstrikes on ISIS positions on Monday.

The fury visible with which this vital part of Iraq's future has changed hands.

Kurdish troops, their advance watched by so many claimed control of the dam on Monday night.

But it is a mess of mines, and ISIS rarely backs down. Each new plume of smoke causes locals to brace.

In the slim chance that dam does break, it could flood areas downstream. But people have been fleeing not because of that eventuality, but because instead of the advance of ISIS.

These quiet skies have had new visitors.

U.S. warplanes creating their occasional roar.

One village is controlled by ISIS, another the Kurds.

One Christian one, a key target for ISIS's fervor to convert, emptied out and moved up to a hillside monastery.

To a monastery that's been sheltering in the rock for 1,700 years.

ISIS's savagery can seem medieval.

But in the monastery the serenity of time past and ceremony brings peace briefly, for some.

Even in walls that have seen it all, ISIS terrorists, known as Daesh here, are different.

“This is the worst bad I saw in my life, because Daesh, they want to kill every people,” a man says.

ISIS told people to pay or convert, and marked their doors with the letter n, for infidel, he recalls.

Many fled just in time, now marooned up here.

“We were afraid,” she says. “Terrified they would call us infidels. My Muslim friend told me to leave.”

Her husband, showing how he remembers his tormentors.

Others afraid to talk.

Some believing ISIS would not dare enter this sacred ground.

All hoping they will never have to find out.

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