Iraqi Residents Left Trying to Restore Lives After ISIS Threats

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

MOSUL, Iraq  --  Iraqi forces are going house-to-house in Mosul, trying to push out ISIS and allow civilians to return to their homes.

The Iraqi town has been the focus of extensive fighting since October, and as CNN's Ben Wedeman reports, even with battle raging, some people are returning to the city in an attempt to restart the way of life ISIS destroyed.

A small flock returned for Mass in the charred ruins of the Church of Mary the Immaculate in Qaraqosh, near Mosul. ISIS set fire to the church, smashed its crosses and statues, and used its courtyard as a firing range. 

Yaaqub Hanna came home to Qaraqosh a week ago, and has yet to recover from the shock. 

"I felt pain," he recalls. "My eyes filled with tears." 

Silvana, another resident, returned just for Mass and says it is the first time she returned to the church and is then at a loss for words. 

Bishop Youhanna Boutros Moshe has struggled to help residents through the trauma, but worries the specter of ISIS still hovers nearby. 

"We expected everything in Qaraqosh: theft, damage and destruction," he said. "But arson, for us, is a message, a threatening message, that the idea of ISIS is still here in this region, and that's what we fear." 

The once-prosperous community is now a ghost town of empty streets, blown out buildings, and gutted shops, with constant reminders of ISIS' hatred for everything Qaraqosh stood for. 

Workers have erected a large cross at one of the main roundabouts to signal the town's liberation, but it's just a symbol. 

Before ISIS took over this town in the summer of 2014, more than 60,000 people called it home. Now, months after it was liberated, only a handful have returned. Without electricity and running water, without help to get life moving again, most residents are hesitant to return. 

Businessman Tawfiq Saqar moved back two months ago, and showed a list of everything ISIS looted from his businesses. He says the central government has not restored power or water, and is completely neglecting Christians in the area. 

Some residents have returned, briefly, to bury their dead. 

ISIS has controlled Mosul since June of 2014. The city is the terror group's last major stronghold in Iraq.