|Residents carry the coffin of a victim killed in an attack on the Our Lady of Salvation Church, during a funeral at St. Joseph Chaldean Church in Baghdad November 2, 2010|
Iraq launched an investigation on Tuesday into a church raid in which 52 hostages and police were killed, trying to find out how al Qaeda-linked gunmen managed to storm the building despite checkpoints, an official said.
Sunday's attack was the bloodiest against Iraq's Christian minority since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, and drove fear deep into the hearts of many Iraqi Christians who had so far resisted the urge to flee their war-torn country.
Baghdad security spokesman Major General Qassim al-Moussawi said the assailants were disguised as guards working for a private security firm and carried fake ids.
"We have formed an investigation to uncover details of the attack and if we discover anyone has been negligent or complicit, he will be held strictly accountable," Moussawi said.
"We have many question marks about how such a large number of terrorists managed to reach the church in the heart of Baghdad," he said.
Defense Minister Abdel Qader Jassim said the authorities ordered the detention of the police commander in charge of the district where the church attack took place for questioning, a standard procedure after high-profile attacks.
Gunmen tied to an Iraqi al Qaeda offshoot seized hostages at the Our Lady of Salvation Church, a Syrian Catholic cathedral, during Sunday mass, demanding the release of women they said had converted to Islam but were being detained by the Coptic church in Egypt. Early reports said they also sought the release of al Qaeda prisoners in Iraq and Egypt.
The attack, which lasted several hours, ended when security forces raided the church to free more than 100 Iraqi Catholics.
The siege was far from being one of the bloodiest incidents in the 7-1/2 years of sectarian warfare and insurgency unleashed after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, and in which tens of thousands of Iraqis died, the vast majority Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims.
But it has provoked a worldwide outburst of anguish and cast a spotlight on Iraq's fragile stability as the sectarian bloodshed recedes and U.S. forces scale down their presence ahead of a full withdrawal next year.
|Iraqi Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly (L) attends a funeral for victims of an attack on the Our Lady of Salvation Church, at St. Joseph Chaldean Church in Baghdad November 2, 2010|
Iraq is still waiting for politicians to agree on a new government almost eight months after an inconclusive election, creating a political vacuum that Sunni Islamist insurgents have sought to exploit through devastating assaults.