Carnage at churches
- Carnage at churches
Car bombers target Iraq's Christians for first time since US
invasion, sparking fears of more sectarian violence
BAGHDAD - The worst fears of Iraq's beleaguered Christian minority
were realised when a wave of coordinated car bombings targeted
worshippers at Sunday services in four churches in Baghdad and the
northern city of Mosul, killing at least 11 people.
[photo - Iraqis wander among the debris and charred vehicles after a
bomb exploded outside a church in Baghdad. -- AP ]
It was the first time in Iraq's 15-month insurgency that Christians
were targeted, further fraying the country's delicate religious
fabric and raising fears of increased sectarian conflict.
Attackers timed some of the blasts for maximum impact, during evening
services that attracted hundreds of faithful.
Bloodied and dazed, churchgoers spilt onto streets littered with
shards of stained glass and splinters of wood as thick plumes of
smoke billowed above them.
The Iraqi Ministry of Health said six people died, but witnesses
reported at least 11 deaths.
Smoke drifts over the scene of destruction outside the Assyrian
church in the Al-Doura neighbourhood. -- REUTERS
In the deadliest incident in Baghdad, twin blasts struck the Chaldean
Patriarchate in the south, killing a child and four others just as
churchgoers began arriving for Mass around sunset.
Witnesses said they saw two men pull up in separate cars, park them
near the church, then walk away before the vehicles exploded.
The church served as a bomb shelter during last year's United States
invasion, and local residents - Muslims and Christians alike - banded
together to protect it from looters.
Around the same time as the Baghdad explosions, at least one car bomb
went off outside a church in Mosul, incinerating a motorist and
wounding four other people.
The toll could have been higher if all the mortar shells stuffed
inside the car had detonated, police said.
Estimates of Iraq's Christian population range from 600,000 to
800,000 - roughly 3 per cent of the overall population of 25 million.
[photo - An injured woman with a child rushes to seek medical
attention. Attackers timed some of the blasts for maximum impact,
during evening services that attracted hundreds of faithful. -- AP]
Most Iraqi Christians are Chaldeans, Eastern-rite Catholics whose
church is autonomous from Rome, with its own liturgy and leadership,
but recognises the authority of the Pope.
Chaldeans trace their lineage to the Babylonian-Mesopotamian nation
of Chaldees, where the patriarch Abraham was born.
Other Christians include Roman and Syriac Catholics; Assyrians
(Church of the East); Greek, Syriac and Armenian Orthodox; and
Presbyterians, Anglicans and evangelicals.
At the Ibin Nafeas Hospital, police said 16 victims arrived by
[photo - One of the victims, a man whose left arm was blown off, died
while he was being treated for his injuries, said an Iraqi police
officer. -- AP, Washington Post]