Christian Brothers Shot Dead in North Iraq
MOSUL, Iraq (AFP) — Two Iraqi Christian brothers were gunned down inside their vehicle workshop in the restive northern city of Mosul on Monday, police said.
Saad Hanna, 43, and Waad Hanna, 40, were shot dead at around noon (0900 GMT) in the city, 350 kilometres (220 miles) north of Baghdad, the latest in a spate of attacks targeting the minority community in Iraq.
"Two Syrian Catholic Christians were killed inside their workshop in an industrial area in west Mosul," said police Major Fathi Abdulrazzaq.
Earlier this month, a series of bomb and mortar attacks targeted the homes and businesses of Christians in the capital Baghdad, killing six people and wounding 33 and drawing international condemnation.
Those attacks came less than two weeks after 44 Christian worshippers, two priests and seven security personnel died in the seizure of a Baghdad cathedral 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 Syrian Catholic cathedral and warned it would step up attacks on Christians.
Between 800,000 and 1.2 million Christians lived in Iraq before the US-led invasion of 2003 but that number has since shrunk to around 500,000 in the face of repeated attacks against their community and churches.
Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday spoke of his sense of solidarity towards Iraq's beleaguered Christian community, while issuing an appeal for religious freedom worldwide.
"Religious communities in Italy are praying today, at the request of their bishops, for the Christians who are suffering from persecution and discrimination, notably in Iraq," the pope said during his weekly Angelus prayer in St Peter's square.