Friday, December 31, 2010

Two Christians killed in wave of Baghdad bombings - 14 bombs planted at Christian homes

Mourners carry the coffin of slain Christian Fawzi Rahim, 76, during his funeral Mass at St. George Chaldean Church in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, Dec. 31, 2010

Two Iraqi Christians have been killed in a new wave of apparently coordinated bomb attacks in the capital just two months after militants massacred 46 Christians in a church in the city.

A total of 14 bombs were placed at different Christian homes late on Thursday, an interior ministry official said on Friday.

"Two Christians were killed and 16 wounded" by the 10 bombs that went off, while security forces were able to carry out controlled detonations of four other devices, the official said.

The only deadly attack was in the central district of Al-Ghadir, where a home-made bomb exploded at around 8:00 pm (1700 GMT), killing the two Christians and wounding three others.

Most of the 14 bombs, which targeted Christian homes in a total of seven different areas of the city, were in Karrada in central Baghdad, the official said.

Three devices wounded three Christians in that area, while all four of the controlled detonations were also in Karrada.

Another bomb targeted a house in Al-Ilam neighbourhood in southern Baghdad, wounding one person; two bombs wounded four people in Dora in the south of the city and one bomb in Saidiya, also in the south, wounded two people.

Another device targeted a Christian home in Yarmuk in western Baghdad, wounding one, and a house in Khadra, also in the west of the city, was targeted by a bomb that wounded two people.

The wave of attacks comes almost two months to the day after an October 31 attack by militants on Our Lady of Salvation church in central Baghdad, which left the 44 worshippers, two priests and seven security forces members dead.

Al-Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq, claimed responsibility for the attack and made new threats against Iraqi Christians.

Ten days after the church massacre, a string of bomb and mortar attacks targeting the homes of Christians in Baghdad killed six people and wounded 33 others.

Chaldean Catholic archbishop Monsignor Louis Sarko in Kirkuk said on December 21 that he "and 10 other Christian personages received threats from the so-called Islamic State of Iraq."

On Christmas day, both Iraqi speaker of parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and Prime Minister Nur al-Maliki urged Christians, hundreds of thousands of whom have fled abroad amid unrest since the 2003 US-led invasion, to stay in Iraq.

"Iraqis don't want the sound of the (church) bells to stop," Nujaifi said at the opening of session of parliament on December 25.

And Maliki said in a statement: "We strongly call on (Christians) to stay in their country, to commit to their country and participate in building and reconstructing it."

A preliminary report released on Thursday by Iraq Body Count, a Britain-based monitoring group, said that the number of Iraqi civilians killed in violence in 2010 was set to be the lowest since the 2003 US-led invasion.

However, it also noted that attacks remain common across the country.

Maliki, who was approved by parliament for a second term in office along with a national unity cabinet on December 21, has cited security as one of his top three priorities.

But 10 ministries, including those responsible for security, which are controlled by Maliki in the interim, still have acting heads only.

Radio Netherlands

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