Chaldean Church buildings targeted in bombings in Mosul, Iraq

LONDON (CNS) – A Chaldean Catholic church, rectory and convent in the northern Iraq city of Mosul were bombed in two separate incidents in late November, but no one was injured.
Explosives were detonated inside St. Ephrem’s Church Nov. 26, and the building was reduced to a “blackened shell,” said a Nov. 27 statement by the British branch of Aid to the Church in Need, a charity working to help persecuted Christians around the world. It said the church rectory also was attacked.

St. Ephrem’s pastor, Father Youhanna Jajeka, was not in either building at the time of the attacks, the statement said.

Hours later a bomb was thrown at St Theresa’s Convent in New Mosul, west of the city. At least five Dominican sisters who were in the complex at the time of the attack escaped unharmed.

Archbishop Emil Nona of Mosul said in a written statement to Aid to the Church in Need: “What has happened is a terrible thing. We do not know why or how this happened.”

One of the Dominican sisters, who asked not to be named, told the charity: “We are in total shock. The sheer noise of the bomb and the damage it caused terrified us.”

Most of the nuns have been transferred to another Dominican convent in a nearby village.

Father Bashar Warda, rector of St. Peter’s Seminary in nearby Arbil, who is responsible for coordinating relief efforts after the attacks, told Aid to the Church in Need that local Christians were surprised by the attacks because security had been improving and life in Mosul was “gradually becoming normalized.”

“What has happened now has put a stop to the optimism,” he said.

A series of church bombings in Mosul in July left at least four dead and more than 30 injured. A flare-up in violence in October 2008 claimed the lives of 13 Christians and forced thousands to flee the city.

In February 2008 Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul, Iraq, was kidnapped, and his driver and two bodyguards were killed. Two weeks later his body was recovered after kidnappers revealed where it was buried.