(Al-Jazeera) At a covert training camp just north of Mosul, ten miles from the front lines with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the first wave of Assyrian Christian volunteers for the Nineveh Protection Unit (NPU) have just completed boot camp. Funded in part by an Assyrian-American telethon campaign and trained by a handful of freelance U.S. military veterans, around 500 men are set to deploy next week as part of an unorthodox — and unproven — project.
But as ISIL pillages what’s left of their ancestral homeland, and Iraqi government forces prove incapable of stopping them, some among the region's dwindling Assyrian Christian minority have placed their hopes for self-preservation in the NPU, which plans to grow by the thousands in the coming months.
"Their morale and capabilities are higher than almost anything I’ve seen," said Matthew VanDyke, an American filmmaker and former rebel fighter in Libya who organized training sessions over the past two months to whip the NPU into fighting shape. "The kidnapping of their people, the loss of their homeland, the use of their women as sex slaves — it’s really put a fire in them."
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