Christmas Day blasts rock Baghdad

Bombings kill dozens in Christian neighborhoods in the south of Iraq’s capital
Iraqi security stands guard as Iraqi Christians attend the Christmas mass at the Virgin Mary Chaldean Christian church in the capital Baghdad on Dec. 25, 2011.AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images

Armed groups in Iraq targeted Christians in two separate bomb attacks in Baghdad Wednesday, killing at least 37 people, officials said.

The bombs were detonated in Christian areas of Baghdad. A car bomb that exploded near a church after a Christmas service killed at least 26, police and medics said.

A bomb in a parked car went off on Wednesday while worshipers were leaving a church in the Doura district of southern Baghdad after finishing prayers, police sources said.

Most of the victims were Christian, they said. Scores of others were injured.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The attacks come a day after Christians in Iraq celebrated their first Christmas Eve midnight mass in Baghdad since 2003, taking advantage of intensive security measures in the capital.

Festivities have been overshadowed in recent years as targeted attacks on the Christian community forced thousands to flee a country where Christians once numbered about 1.5 million.

A Christmas mass in 2010 was canceled after threats by Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Wednesday’s bombings also came amid a massive military operation in Iraq’s western desert as authorities try to hunt down those responsible for stepped-up attacks across Iraq in the past months, sending violence to levels not seen since 2008.

The Christmas Day attacks brought the total number of people killed so far this month in Iraq to 441. According to United Nations estimates, more than 8,000 people have been killed since the start of the year.

Al Jazeera and wire services