Bombings target Christian neighbourhoods in Baghdad

iraqi-christians-carry-th-0062.jpgCo-ordinated attacks on churches and homes, including that of a family caught in last week’s cathedral assault, leave at least four dead
Martin Chulov in Baghdad
Iraqi Christians carry the coffin of a relative who was killed along with 52 others in the attack on Our Lady of Salvation cathedral. Photograph: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty ImagesAt least four people have been killed and dozens injured in a co-ordinated series of attacks on Christian neighbourhoods in Baghdad.
More than 14 bombs and mortar shells were detonated, targeting homes and a church across the Iraqi capital.
At least one of today’s attacks targeted the family of a victim of an assault last week on one of Baghdad’s main cathedrals, which left 53 worshippers dead.
The terrorists identified the family by funeral signs still hanging outside the home.
Three Christian homes in the western Baghdad suburb of Mansour were bombed last night with improvised explosives. Early this morning, two homes were hit by mortar fire in Dora, a Christian neighbourhood in the south. A bomb also exploded near a church in Kampsara and a house in nearby Baladiyat.
The scale of attacks against Christian targets is unprecedented and is likely to give fresh impetus to calls from some Christian leaders for their community to leave Iraq.
The campaign of violence against Christians has shocked a country that endured three years of savage sectarian violence between 2005-2008.
“These operations, which targeted Christians, came as a continuation of the attack that targeted the Salvation church,” an interior ministry source told Reuters.
The Islamic State of Iraq – an al-Qaida front group – claimed responsibility for that attack and vowed to launch further attacks against Christians to avenge the imprisonment of two Muslim women it claims are being held by Coptic priests in Egypt.
Ever since the cathedral killings, Iraq’s 500,000 Christians have lived in fear of an escalation in violence. So too had Iraq’s feuding politicians, who face increasing doubts about their ability to protect the country’s citizens.
France has offered to treat survivors of the massacre and has evacuated 40 wounded Iraqis, including a Muslim guard who was injured in the attack. The French government has also pledged to offer asylum to 1,000 Iraqi Christians.
Several Christian leaders last week called for Iraq’s remaining Christians to flee the country.
Archbishop Athanasios Dawood, the head of the Iraq Orthodox church in London, warned of a looming “genocide”.
“Before they killed one, one, one but now, tens, tens. If they do that, they will finish us if we stay in Iraq,” he said.
Priests and bishops in Lebanon and Egypt, which maintain strong Christian minorities, have also expressed fear for the future of Iraq’s largest minority group.
Nour al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, yesterday visited the scene of last week’s attack at the Our Lady of Salvation cathedral, where he urged Christian worshippers to remain in Iraq. He praised France for “showing compassion” to survivors, but said other countries should not encourage emigration.
Attacks against Christian targets became commonplace in the northern city of Mosul from 2005-2009. A wave of violence in late 2008 forced hundreds of families to flee the city for Baghdad.
But Baghdad’s Christian communities have not been targeted until now. Even during the sectarian violence of 2006-2007, Christians experienced nothing like the carnage between Shia and Sunni communities that ravaged the city.