Two Christians killed in Baghdad attacks

A string of six attacks on Christian homes in Baghdad killed two persons.

Baghdad: At least two Christians were killed and nine wounded in a string of six attacks on Christian homes in Baghdad on Thursday, an Interior Ministry official said.

The worst incident was in the central district of Al-Ghadir, where a homemade bomb exploded around 8:00 pm (1700 GMT), killing the two Christians and wounding three others, including one Christian, the official said.

The attacks started at 7:30 pm and continued over two hours in six different parts of the capital as the Christian community still reels from a massacre at a Baghdad cathedral on October 31 in which 44 worshippers and two priests died.

Al-Ghadir is an area with a significant Christian population, though many have fled following the massacre and in light of threats by al Qaeda to target them.

Other blasts, also from homemade bombs, injured another nine Christians.

Two bombs exploded in west Baghdad, one in the garden of a home in Yarmuk, where one person was hurt, and another in Khadra, wounding two Christians.

Another was hurt in an explosion in the Karrada district, which is where the cathedral is located.

And in south Baghdad, three Christians were hurt in explosions in Dora and two in Saidiya.

A pall of gloom has descended on Iraq`s badly battered Christian community since gunmen burst into Our Lady of Salvation church in Baghdad and began firing on worshippers.

Iraqi forces stormed the building to end what turned into a hostage situation and, by the end of the operation, the 44 worshippers, two priests and seven security forces personnel lay dead.

The attack was later claimed by al Qaeda affiliate the Islamic State of Iraq, which threatened further attacks on Christians.

It said the attack was to force the release of two women in Egypt who had allegedly converted to Islam and were being held hostage by the Coptic Church there.

"All Christian centres, organisations and institutions, leaders and followers, are legitimate targets for the mujahedeen (holy warriors) wherever they can reach them," the group said.

"Let these idolaters, and at their forefront, the hallucinating tyrant of the Vatican, know that the killing sword will not be lifted from the necks of their followers until they declare their innocence from what the dog of the Egyptian Church is doing," the ISI said.

It also demanded that the Christians "show to the mujahedeen their seriousness to pressure this belligerent church to release the captive women from the prisons of their monasteries."

Ten days later a string of attacks targeted the homes of Christians in Baghdad, killing six people and wounding 33 others.

Faced with the al Qaeda threats, Iraq`s Christian community this year cancelled many Christmas celebrations rather than rejoicing.

In a sombre pre-Christmas address last week, the Middle East`s senior Catholic cleric expressed concern about the plight of Iraqi Christians, and offered his solidarity and support.

The number of Christians left in Iraq is estimated at between 450,000 and 500,000, including around 300,000 Roman Catholics. Between 800,000 and 1.2 million Christians lived in Iraq in 2003.

Bureau Report

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