Iraq: Christian buildings bombed

From the AP Jan. 30:

Bombs in Iraq target 5 Christian buildings

BAGHDAD – Car bombs exploded in quick succession Sunday near four Christian churches and the office of the Vatican envoy, killing three people and raising new concerns about sectarian tensions. At least 17 other people were killed in other violence around the country.

No group claimed responsibility for the bombings, which occurred within a half-hour near two churches in Baghdad and two in Kirkuk, 180 miles to the north. The fifth bomb exploded about 50 yards from the Vatican mission in the capital.

The U.S. military announced the death of an American soldier in a roadside bomb blast in Baghdad on Saturday. At least 2,241 U.S. military personnel have died since the war began, according to an Associated Press count.

The attacks on Christian sites came at a time of rising sectarian tensions, including reprisal killings and raids, that threaten to complicate efforts to form a broad-based government following the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections.

A prominent Sunni Arab politician, Naseer al-Ani, called the bombings “terrorist acts.”

Three people died in the bombing at the Church of the Virgin in Kirkuk, police said. At least nine people were injured in the bombings, which caused little damage to the Christian buildings.

Despite the relatively low casualty toll, the bombings are expected to raise fears among the country’s small Christian minority – about 3 percent of Iraq’s 27-million people. At least 12 people were killed in a series of church bombings in 2004.

Vatican officials had no immediate comment.

U.S. officials are pressing the Iraqis to agree on a government that can win the trust of the Sunni Arabs, the minority community that forms the backbone of the insurgency. Such a government is considered essential if the United States and its international partners are to begin bringing their troops home this year.

On Sunday, bombings and ambushes killed eight policemen and a medic in attacks across Baghdad and in the northern cities of Baqouba and Beiji.

A car bomb killed four Iraqi soldiers and wounded six more in Saddam Hussein’s birthplace of Uja, about 75 miles north of Baghdad. It was unclear whether the attacks were linked to Hussein’s trial, which resumed Sunday.

A former high-ranking general in Hussein’s disbanded army, Lt. Gen. Mahmoud Idham, was assassinated near Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, police said. The motive for the attack was unclear.

U.S. soldiers killed three men wearing Iraqi police uniforms and captured a fourth during a gunfight in Kirkuk. No police identity cards were found, and Iraqi police Brig. Serhad Qadir said they were suspected insurgents in disguise.

[Last modified January 30, 2006, 00:33:11]

See also Report: Iraq minorities face greatest threat

See our last post on Iraq.