Residents of the ancient Syrian town of Ma’lula celebrated the first anniversary of their town’s liberation from the al-Qaeda-linked Takfiri militants, Press TV reports.
The residents of Ma’lula were able to return to their homes in April last year, after the Syrian army forces and Hezbollah fighters cleared the town, which is home to the region’s oldest Christian communities.
“Al-Nusra Front’s militants were burning tires and would throw them over our homes. They also kidnapped our sons, but the Syrian army got us out of the town and removed elders by tanks. They then liberated the town and we got back here on April 10, 2014,” Ma’lula resident Fadel Semaan said.
Residents say the militants killed many people in the area and destroyed many of its ancient Islamic and Christian religious structures.
Semaan added that the Takfiri terrorists burned a church in the town and stole valuable items inside.
“Terrorists deprived Ma’lula from its visitors, they destroyed our mosques and churches, and displaced our families,” Ma’lula official Elias Habib said.
The al-Nusra Front militants attacked Ma’lula in September 2013, forcing many of its 5,000 residents to flee.
The town is of strategic significance to militants who have been trying to gain control over the Syrian capital, Damascus. It is also home to Mar Sarkis and Mar Takla, two of the oldest surviving monasteries in Syria.
Over 3.8 million Syrians have left their country since the beginning of the crisis in March 2011. More than 7.2 million Syrians have also become internally displaced, according to the United Nations.