Iraqi Christians returning to their homes in Qaraqosh have found their houses burnt and churches desecrated.

One woman, Manal Matti, told the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that “jihadists [had] used the church as a shooting range”. She added that mannequins taken from her clothes shop, close to her church (of the Immaculate Conception) were riddled with bullets after being used for target practice.

Another, St George’s Syriac Catholic Church, was used as a bomb factory, the charity was told. Chemicals were found in the church, together with instructions on how to mix them into explosives.

Louis Petrus returned to find his house damaged and most of his furniture burned or stolen, but, he said: “This is my country. As soon as it is safe in the city and we have permission to live here again, I want to rebuild my life in Qaraqosh.”

Before Qaraqosh was taken by Islamic State forces, Christians made up about 95% of its population.

Iraq is ranked the 7th most dangerous place to be a Christian in the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List.