Baghdad: Almost 40 Iraqis wounded in a
deadly al Qaeda hostage crisis in a Baghdad church are to be
flown to France for hospital treatment, the French embassy in
the Iraqi capital said today.
"There are 37 people who were wounded in the October
31 attack and 20 others accompanying them. Their departure is
planned for Monday morning on a hospital plane," the diplomat
told AFP, adding the figure was not final.
Almost all of the wounded are Christians, apart from
two Muslims, a member of the targeted community said.
"The wounded will be sent to different hospitals in
France, especially Paris," said the diplomat, who asked not to
be named. He said it was unclear if the Iraqis would be
allowed to stay on in France after their treatment.
France had announced a day after the church bloodbath
that it was ready to take in 150 Iraqis, with the priority
going to those wounded in the attack and their families.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner announced
earlier today during a visit to Beirut that about 30 wounded
Iraqi Christians were to be flown to his country for hospital
At least 46 hostages, including two priests, were
killed amid gunfire and explosions during a raid by Iraqi
security forces to end the hostage-taking by al Qaeda gunmen
in a Syriac Catholic cathedral during Sunday mass.
Al Qaeda has declared Christians everywhere
"legitimate targets" in the wake of the bloodshed at the
Around 800,000 Christians lived in Iraq prior to the
US-led invasion of 2003 but that number has since shrunk to
around 500,000 in the face of repeated attacks against their
community and churches.
Christians in Baghdad have now dwindled to around
150,000, a third of their former population in the capital.
The 14 Chaldean churches still in use in the capital are half
the number of seven years ago.