BAGHDAD, IRAQ (BosNewsLife)– Nearly 100 people died when remote-controlled explosives, strapped to two mentally disabled women, detonated in coordinated blasts rocking two Baghdad pet markets Friday, February 1, Iraqi officials said, adding to concerns among Iraq’s minority Christians who have been in the crossfire of attacks.
News reports said over 200 others were injured in the latest attacks, the deadliest in the Iraqi capital since last August, when three car bombs killed more than 80 people, several news reports said. American military officials called the two attacks suicide bombings, saying both women detonated the explosive devices. They reported lower casualty figures of 27 dead and 53 wounded.
Friday’s violence came shortly after Archbishop Avak V Asadourian, a leader in the Armenian Church in Iraq, warned that Christians are “on the verge of being wiped out” from Iraq, and from “the entire region where Jesus Christ lived and worked.” Several churches have also been bombed in recent weeks.
Bischop Asadourian told Ecumenical News International (ENI) agency that Christians are fleeing the country and comprise far less than three per cent of the countryâ€™s 27.5 million population. The bishop said Iraqi Christians are “faced each day with being kidnapped or facing the agony of having a loved one who is kidnapped.”
He cited recent cases of a Syrian Orthodox priest in the northern town of Mosul who was decapitated, apparently for refusing to convert to Islam, and of a Chaldean priest and his three assistants, who were all shot dead. “I am afraid that Christianity will face a slow demise,” throughout the region, he added.
More Christians were expected to flee Iraq Friday, February 1, as the chief of staff for coalition ground forces in Iraq, Brigadier General Joseph Anderson, revealed that al-Qaida in Iraq was responsible for the latest Baghdad bombings. In both instances, the bombers were mentally disabled women whose explosive belts were remotely detonated by cell phones, said General Qasim Atta, spokesman for Baghdad’s security plan. Atta said bomb squad members reported the women were strapped with dynamite and ball bearings.
An aide to Atta said authorities thought the women didn’t know of the detonation plans. In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice suggested that the apparent use of women suffering of Down syndrome, showed the “absolute bankruptcy” of people who would wage such an attack. (With BosNewsLife Monitoring and reports from Iraq).