Map of Baghdad showing areas of the city where Christians have been targetted in a series of deadly attacks since Tuesday. A string of anti-Christian bombings has cost six more lives in the wake of a Baghdad church bloodbath, sowing panic in Iraq's 2,000-year-old minority on Wednesday, many of whom now want to flee.
A child walks past destroyed vehicles in a mainly Christian neighborhood of central Baghdad on November 10. A string of anti-Christian bombings has cost six more lives in the wake of a Baghdad church bloodbath, sowing panic in Iraq's 2,000-year-old minority on Wednesday, many of whom now want to flee.
An Iraqi Assyrian Catholic woman is seen her home, in a mainly Christian neighborhood of central Baghdad on November 10. A string of anti-Christian bombings has cost six more lives in the wake of a Baghdad church bloodbath, sowing panic in Iraq's 2,000-year-old minority on Wednesday, many of whom now want to flee.
An Iraqi refugee attends a memorial mass in Beirut Sunday to mourn 46 people, including two priests, slain during a hostage crisis at a Baghdad church last month. A string of anti-Christian bombings has cost six more lives in the wake of a Baghdad church bloodbath, sowing panic in Iraq's 2,000-year-old minority on Wednesday, many of whom now want to flee.
AFP - A string of anti-Christian bombings has cost six more lives in the wake of a Baghdad church bloodbath, sowing panic in Iraq's 2,000-year-old minority on Wednesday, many of whom now want to flee.
"Since Tuesday evening, there have been 13 bombs and two mortar attacks on homes and shops of Christians in which a total of six people were killed and 33 injured," a defence ministry official said. "A church was also damaged."
The attacks come less than two weeks after 44 Christian worshippers, two priests and seven security personnel died in the seizure of the Baghdad church by Islamist gunmen and the ensuing shootout when it was stormed by troops.
On November 3, Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the hostage-taking at the capital's Syrian Catholic cathedral and warned it would step up attacks on Christians.
As Christians converged on their churches on Wednesday to seek counsel from their religious leaders, the capital's Syrian Catholic archbishop made an emotional appeal for Western countries to come to their rescue.
"It would be criminal on the part of the international community not to take care of the security of the Christians," Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka said inside the church targeted on October 31 where he tried to console his flock.
"Everybody is scared," he said. "People are asking who is going to protect them, how are they going to stay on in Iraq. We are trying to encourage them to stay patient."
The UN Security Council said Wednesday it was "appalled" by the militant attacks on Christians and Muslims in Iraq.
There is "a deliberate will to destroy the Christian community" which is "on the frontline of the fight for democracy," said France's UN ambassador Gerard Araud.
The UN Security Council was "appalled by and condemned in the strongest terms the recent spate of terrorist attacks in Iraq, including today's," said British ambassador Mark Lyall Grant reading a council statement.
Vatican secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone described the latest attacks as "very painful."
"It is a terrible suffering for all the Christian communities in the world," Italian news agencies quoted him as saying.
The protection of Iraqi Christians is an issue that "we hope... will be taken into serious consideration" by the Baghdad government, Bertone added.
The scarred Syrian Catholic cathedral in the central district of Karrada has become a focus of the fears of Christian families.
"For the past two years now, my wife has been trying to persuade me to leave the country but I didn't agree," said 42-year-old labourer Raed Wissam from the Dora district of south Baghdad.
"Today, I feel sure she's right because I don't want to feel guilty if something bad happens to one of my children."
Wissam said he was woken up at 6:00 am (0300 GMT) by an explosion. "I ran up to the roof to see what was going on and I heard three more blasts, with three Christian homes targeted. My two children wept."
Emmanuel Karim, a 27-year-old IT worker, was about to go to work from his home in Camp Sara, central Baghdad, when a bomb exploded. The apparent target was the car of his uncle, who was among those killed on October 31.
"Fifteen minutes later, a second bomb exploded, killing a neighbour who was trying to put out the fire in the car... He was a Muslim. He was my friend," said Karim, fighting back the tears.
He said the faithful were gathering at churches to try to join the Christian exodus which has been picking up pace since the 2003 invasion of now violence-plagued Iraq, where their community's roots date back two millenia.
Monsignor Pius Kasha, also of the church in the hostage-taking at the end of last month, said a four-month-old baby was among three people wounded in bombings of Christian homes in Baghdad's Mansur district late on Tuesday.
"We don't know what is the aim of these criminals but what is certain is that this will push even more Christians to emigrate ... Where is the security the government is supposed to provide to all citizens, Christians and Muslims?"
A senior Iraqi clergyman based in London said at the weekend that Christians should quit Iraq or face being killed at the hands of Al-Qaeda.
But Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Tuesday cautioned other countries not to encourage Christians to abandon their homeland, after France took in dozens of people wounded in the cathedral attack.
"The countries that have welcomed the victims ... of this attack (on the church) have done a noble thing, but that should not encourage emigration," the premier said.
An estimated 800,000 Christians lived in Iraq before the US-led invasion but that number has since shrunk to around 500,000 in the face of repeated attacks against their community and churches.
Attacks on churches and homes, including that of a family caught in cathedral assault, leave at least four dead
At least four people have been killed and dozens injured in co-ordinated attacks on Christian neighbourhoods in Baghdad.
More than 14 bombs and mortar shells were detonated, targeting homes and a church across the Iraqi capital.
At least one of today'sthe attacks was aimed at the family of a victim of an assault last week on a Baghdad cathedral, which left 53 worshippers dead. The terrorists identified the family by funeral signs still hanging outside the home.
Three Christian homes in the western suburb of Mansour were bombed last night with improvised explosives. Two homes were hit this morning by mortar fire in Dora, a Christian neighbourhood in the south. A bomb also exploded near a church in Kampsara and a house in neary Baladiyat.
Karam Boutrous Torma, 50, was sleeping in Kampsara when an explosion tore through his front yard. A mourning sign had hung on his front wall for the past week announcing the death of his cousin Saad Adwar, 49, who was killed inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation. Adwar's mother was inside the house and his widow was nearby.
"We fled to the roof while everything burned below," Torma said, standing alongside the blackened remains of two cars. "When they got us down, we went to our neighbour's house."
Starting to cry, he added: "If we stay here we will lose our lives."
In the nearby suburb of al-Sana'a, Linda Jalal was woken at 5:45am by neighbours knocking on her door. "They said they saw a car drive by and drop a black bag behind our car," she said. The car had a cross hanging from the rear vision mirror. "We called the police and they said there was nothing they could do about it. We went to the back room and it exploded at 7:15am.
"I am scared out of my mind. We don't know our fate. We are desperate to leave, but we are scared to as well. There are so many people who have gone to America, or Sweden and can't find work."
The scale of attacks against Christian targets is unprecedented and is likely to give fresh impetus to calls from some Christian leaders for their community to leave Iraq.
The campaign of violence against Christians has shocked a country that endured three years of savage sectarian violence between 2005-2008.
"These operations, which targeted Christians, came as a continuation of the attack that targeted the Salvation church," an interior ministry source told Reuters.
The Islamic State of Iraq – an al-Qaida front group – claimed responsibility for that attack and vowed to launch further attacks against Christians to avenge the imprisonment of two Muslim women it claims are being held by Coptic priests in Egypt.
Ever since the cathedral killings, Iraq's 500,000 Christians have feared an escalation in violence. So too had Iraq's feuding politicians, who face increasing doubts about their ability to protect the country's citizens.
France has offered to treat survivors of the cathedral killings and has evacuated 40 wounded Iraqis, including a Muslim guard who was injured in the attack. The French government has also pledged to offer asylum to 1,000 Iraqi Christians.
Several Christian leaders last week called for Iraq's remaining Christians to flee the country.
Archbishop Athanasios Dawood, the head of the Iraq Orthodox church in London, warned of a looming genocide. "Before they killed one, one, one but now, tens, tens. If they do that, they will finish us if we stay in Iraq," he said.
Priests and bishops in Lebanon and Egypt, which maintain strong Christian minorities, have also expressed fear for the future of Iraq's largest minority group.
Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, yesterday visited the scene of the cathedral attack and urged Christian worshippers to remain in Iraq. He praised France for "showing compassion" to survivors, but said other countries should not encourage emigration.
Attacks against Christian targets became commonplace in the northern city of Mosul from 2005-2009. Violence in late 2008 forced hundreds of families to flee the city for Baghdad.
But Baghdad's Christian communities have not been targeted until now. Even during the sectarian violence of 2006-2007, Christians experienced nothing like the carnage between Shia and Sunni communities that ravaged the city.
\ã-'sir-é-ä\ n (1998)
1: an ancient empire of Ashur
2: a democratic state in Bet-Nahren, Assyria (northern
Iraq, northwestern Iran, southeastern Turkey and eastern Syria.)
a democratic state that fosters the social and political rights to all of
its inhabitants irrespective of their religion, race, or gender
4: a democratic state that believes in the freedom of
religion, conscience, language, education and culture in faithfulness to the
principles of the United Nations Charter —
Ethnicity, Religion, Language
Israeli, Jewish, Hebrew
Assyrian, Christian, Aramaic
Saudi Arabian, Muslim, Arabic
\ã-'sir-é-an\ adj or n (1998)
1: descendants of the ancient empire of Ashur
2: the Assyrians, although representing but one single
nation as the direct heirs of the ancient Assyrian Empire, are now
doctrinally divided, inter sese, into five principle
ecclesiastically designated religious sects with their corresponding
hierarchies and distinct church governments, namely, Church of the
East, Chaldean, Maronite, Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic.
These formal divisions had their origin in the 5th century of the
Christian Era. No one can coherently understand the Assyrians
as a whole until he can distinguish that which is religion or church
from that which is nation -- a matter which is particularly
difficult for the people from the western world to understand; for
in the East, by force of circumstances beyond their control,
religion has been made, from time immemorial, virtually into a
criterion of nationality.
the Assyrians have been referred to as Aramaean, Aramaye, Ashuraya,
Ashureen, Ashuri, Ashuroyo, Assyrio-Chaldean, Aturaya, Chaldean,
Chaldo, ChaldoAssyrian, ChaldoAssyrio, Jacobite, Kaldany, Kaldu,
Kasdu, Malabar, Maronite, Maronaya, Nestorian, Nestornaye, Oromoye,
Suraya, Syriac, Syrian, Syriani, Suryoye, Suryoyo and Telkeffee. —
1: a Semitic language which became the lingua franca of
the Middle East during the ancient Assyrian empire.
2: has been referred to as Neo-Aramaic, Neo-Syriac, Classical
Syriac, Syriac, Suryoyo, Swadaya and Turoyo.