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Middle east

Gunmen attack Catholic church in Baghdad

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-10-31

Gunmen have taken worshippers hostage in a Baghdad church after detonating three bombs and fighting with security forces, security officials said. Some police sources said that two security guards were shot dead by the attackers.

REUTERS - Gunmen attacked a Christian church in central Baghdad on Sunday, detonating three bombs before fighting skirmishes with security forces and possibly taking hostages in the church, a security official said.

"It is an armed attack on the Our Lady of Salvation church. Three explosions occurred and our forces are surrounding the area. What's really going on isn't clear to us yet," said Major General Qassim al-Moussawi, spokesman for the Baghdad operations command.
 
"I've been told there are hostages but I'm not sure it's true."
 
Al-Baghdadiya television station said it had received a phone call from someone claiming to be one of the attackers, who demanded the release of all al Qaeda prisoners in Iraq and Egypt. The caller said the attackers belonged to the Islamic State of Iraq, an al Qaeda umbrella group in Iraq.
 
Overall, violence has fallen sharply in Iraq since the height of sectarian bloodshed in 2006-07 triggered after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
 
But attacks by Sunni Islamist insurgents linked to al Qaeda and Shi'ite militia continue on a daily basis.
 
The failure of Iraqi leaders to agree on a new government almost eight months after an inconclusive election has stoked tensions just as U.S. forces cut back their presence and end combat operations ahead of a full withdrawal next year.
 
Some police sources said two security guards were killed in Sunday's attack, which began with at least one loud explosion near the Assyrian Catholic church.
 
Sporadic gunfire rang out for some time over the Karrada neighbourhood where the church was located as security forces clashed with the gunmen.
 
Some police sources said they believed the initial target was the nearby Iraqi stock exchange, a fledgling bourse that lists a couple of dozen local companies.
 
A stock exchange official said he was not aware of any attack and said the exchange had been closed since mid-afternoon.
 
Our Lady of Salvation, one of Baghdad's largest churches, was one of five churches in Baghdad and Mosul hit in coordinated attacks in August 2004 in which 12 people were killed.
 
Christians number about a 1.5 million out of a total Iraqi population of about 23 million, the vast majority of them Muslims. Christian sects include Chaldeans, Copts, Roman and Melkite Catholics, Maronites and Greek Orthodox.

 

Date created : 2010-10-31

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