Dozens Killed as Christmas Bombings Target Iraqi Christians
Dozens of Iraqis were killed in three separate bombings targeting Christian areas of the capital city of Baghdad on Christmas day.
Al Jazeera reports 38 people were killed in the country’s largest city in attacks that included a car bomb detonated just as Christians were leaving a Christmas church service in the Doura district.
“A car parked near the church exploded when the families were hugging each other goodbye before leaving,” Iraqi policeman Ahmed Edan told Al Jazeera. “The blast was powerful. Bodies of women, girls and men were lying on the ground covered in blood. Others were screaming and crying while they were trying to save some of their wounded relatives.”
Twenty-four people were reportedly killed in the Doura car bombing. Earlier, two explosions rocked a market in Doura, killing 10 people.
Ten others were killed elsewhere in Iraq on Wednesday in three separate attacks targeting police stations and Shia pilgrims.
Al-Qaeda-linked militants have ramped up attacks against Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shi’ite-led government and those who support it, with more than 8,000 Iraqis killed this year, according to the United Nations. This has been the deadliest period in Iraq since sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims claimed tens of thousands of lives in 2006-2007.
Iraqi Christians have been the target of what some observers have called genocidal violence since the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq began in 2003. There were once more than 1.4 million Christians living in Iraq. Christianity’s roots are so old and deep in Mesopotamia that some Iraqi Christians still speak Aramaic, the ancient language of Jesus. Christians were largely protected under Saddam Hussein’s brutal dictatorship, with some, like former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, rising to the highest levels of leadership. Today, Iraqi Christians live in fear for their lives. Hundreds of thousands have fled the country. Those who remain risk kidnapping, torture and death. Others have been forced to convert to Islam or be killed.
Iraq’s Jews have also been targeted for extermination. Baghdad’s once-thriving Jewish community has been all but wiped out, with only seven or eight Jews remaining.
Reuters reports the United States has sent dozens of Hellfire air-to-ground missiles to Iraqi government forces in a bid to counter the dogged insurgency. A shipment of 10 ScanEagle unmanned aerial drones is planned for early next year.
“We remain committed to supporting the government of Iraq in meeting its defense needs in the face of these challenges,” a US State Department official told Reuters.