A half-burned image of Christ is placed next to a wall at a Greek Orthodox church in Maaloula, Syria.
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Its historic churches pillaged by militants and buildings riddled with shrapnel, this ancient Christian town north of Damascus still bears the scars of the fierce fighting that devastated it two years ago.International journalists on a trip to Syria organized by the Russian government Thursday visited Maaloula, some 60 kilometers northeast of Damascus.At St. Takla Convent, a Greek Orthodox monastery that dates back to the early centuries of Christianity, the dome and walls of the church were gutted by fire, its frescoes damaged by bullets and its windows broken.Another monastery, the Greek Catholic St. Sergius, known locally as Mar Sarkis, which sits atop a steep mountain towering over the town, was also vandalized and its rare icons, one of the oldest in the world, were stolen.
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