By Stefan J. Bos Chief International Correspondent, BosNewsLife
Reporters said the church attacks in Baghdad appeared to be car bombs. The two blasts exploded just minutes apart outside two nearby churches â€” one Armenian and one Catholic â€” in the Karada neighborhood. It was the same area where BosNewsLife reporters investigated the plight of Christians last year, with Christian shopkeepers and church leaders expressing concern about the security situation.
“I am shocked and stunned because this is the very district where parents bring their children to baptize them,” said Agnes R. Bos, of the Russian Services of the BBC World Service and Radio France International who accompanied BosNewsLife last year.
The attack was believed to be around the main Armenian church, where parents sometimes postpone baptism services of newborns because of shootings and other violence. Christians often rush to church services to avoid being attacked, sometimes in special buses, as is the case with at least one evangelical domination, BosNewsLife learned in Iraq.
SMOKE DARKENS BAGHDAD
On Sunday, massive plumes of black smoke poured into the evening sky over the city as firefighters struggled to put out flames leaping from the front of the Armenian church and several blackened cars, news reports said.
“I saw injured women and children and men, the church’s glass shattered everywhere. There’s glass all over the floor,” Juliette Agob told the Associated Press (AP) news agency. Agon said she was inside the Armenian church during the first explosion.
At nearly the same time, two blasts struck outside a church in Mosul and a third blast hit a bridge, AP quoted Iraqi officials as saying. There was no immediate word on casualties. The latest violence added to concern among human rights watchers that Christians will massively flee the region. Many families are reportedly fleeing to nearby nations including Jordan.
Just before the church attack in Mosul, a white four-wheel drive vehicle sped toward the Summar police station at around 8 a.m, and a police guard opened fire and killed the driver, the police and U.S. military said, according to AP.
The vehicle crashed into the concrete barriers around the station and exploded, killing five people â€” including three police â€” and wounding 53 people, according to the al-Salam hospital, AP said.
Violence also continued elsewhere in Iraq where a tribal leader mediating with kidnappers for the release of seven kidnapped truck drivers said talks had hit a dead end, denying claims by the Kenyan government that the men had been freed, AP reported.
Militants in Iraq have kidnapped more than 70 foreigners in recent months in an effort to push countries out of the U.S.-led coalition that invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam more than a year ago. In addition local Christian professionals have been kidnapped, human rights watchers say, often for a ransom of thousands of dollars.
At the same time, the campaign of violence waged by insurgents continued with reports that in Fallujah, U.S. forces briefly entered the edge of the city overnight in fighting that shook the area with huge explosions. Marines were reportedly firing tanks at insurgents who had opened fire on them with mortars, machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades, AP said.
Coalition aircraft also dropped guided bombs on a building in an industrial zone from which gunmen were firing, the military said. At least 12 people were killed and 39 wounded in the fighting, a Health Ministry official said on condition of anonymity. The U.S. military said it had killed 10 assailants during the clashes, according to AP.
In addition a roadside bomb hit a 1st Infantry Division patrol in Samarra, a hotbed of violence 60 miles (96 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, killing a U.S. soldier and wounding two others. The death brought to at least 910 the number of U.S. service members have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq in March 2003.
Another bomb killed two civilians and wounded at least two others on Abu Nawas street, an avenue in central Baghdad along the eastern banks of the Tigris River. On the southern Baghdad highway a bomb also killed one man was killed Sunday and injured two others. Two policemen were killed and three injured when their truck was attacked by insurgents in Haswa, 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Baghdad on Saturday, police Lt. Ali Aubeid said.
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