An Iraqi Christian girl, who was kidnapped by ISIS in northern Iraq three years ago when she was just 3, has been reunited with her family.
Christina Abada was welcomed back by family and other well-wishers Friday after she was rescued and released by Iraqi Special Forces. She was only 3 when she was abducted as she and her family fled the city of Qaraqosh in 2014.
“My family of nine has lived in a caravan for over two years,” Yaz Khedher, Christina’s brother, said in a statement provided to Fox News by the Iraqi Christian Relief Council. “With all that we have been through, we are overjoyed that our Christina has been returned to us safely. I thank all those who have prayed for her safe return.”
Little Christina was returned to her family at a refugee camp near Erbil, where her parents have been living.
“With the freedom of Christina, now 6 years old, we have renewed hope for a brighter future for all those who paid a heavy price for being Christian,” Juliana Taimoorazy, ICRC’s founder and president, said to Fox News. “In every presentation, across the globe, I have spoken of baby Christina and the heartache her parents lived with since the time of her capture. [T]his is a happy day.”
Others at the camp described the joyous family reunion.
“It is a very happy moment; everybody is dancing and clapping and singing,” one Christian woman at the camp told World Watch Monitor. “She looks OK, quite healthy. I believe she must have been in the house of a family who took good care of her.”
According to sources on the ground in Mosul, the young girl lived in the Tanak neighborhood of the city for almost three years with a Muslim family that found her all alone in a mosque.
The woman added that Christina looked in shock by all the well-wishers surrounding her at the camp.
“Everybody is asking questions and speaking to her, but she does not say anything back, really. She also seems to be overwhelmed by the huge crowd of people welcoming her,” she said.
It was in August 2014 when Christina was abducted by ISIS fighters as they stormed the city of Mosul and Qaraqosh in the northern region of Iraq known at the Nineveh Plain.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians had already fled, but Christina’s family had stayed behind because her father, Khader, is blind. Like many of the older and frailer people who stayed behind, they were hoping for mercy from the Islamic State.
During their invasion, ISIS militants rounded up the remaining Christians under the false pretense of medical checkups. Christina’s mother, Ayda, said that several times during the lineup, fighters pointed at her, while Christina was in her lap.
The militants were then ordered to remove everyone’s valuables before they were forced into dingy, dirt-covered buses. As Ayda was entering the bus with her young daughter in tow, one of the jihadists snatched the young girl out of her mother’s arms.
“Then one of the Da’esh [ISIS members] came and inspected the people on the bus,” Ayda said to humanitarian organization Open Doors International in July 2015. “He walked up to us. He took my little girl from my arms and just walked away.”
That was the last time that Christina’s parents saw her until this Friday.
“My biggest joy would be when my child Christine would return to us,” she also told Open Doors at the time.