By the Associated Press
BARTELLA, Iraq (AP) — Only a fraction of Christian residents has returned to the northern Iraqi town of Bartella, two years since it was liberated from Islamic State militants.
Many fear intimidation by the town’s population of Shabak, a Shiite Muslim ethnic group that dominates the militias now running Bartella. The tensions are a sign of the sectarian splits around northern Iraq in the wake of the defeat of the Islamic State group.
The large cross in Bartella’s main square is one of few overt signs this town was historically Christian.
Nearby, a massive billboard shows Shiite Muslim martyrs alongside a photo of Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini. Posters of Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen killed in fighting with the Islamic State group hang on streets all around the city, along with banners to revered historical Shiite saints.