Iraq: UN envoy condemns killing of Christian women


BAGHDAD (AP) — The U.N.’s top Iraq envoy on Thursday condemned the killing of two Christian sisters in Mosul, the volatile northern city where Christian residents were starting to return a month after extremist threats forced thousands to flee.

Gunmen killed the sisters Wednesday as they were waiting in front of their house for a ride to work, police said. Their mother was wounded in the attack, and the U.S. military said the family’s house was destroyed by bombs planted inside.

U.N. special representative Staffan de Mistura “expressed his shock and outrage at the continued targeting and killing of religious minorities” in a statement.

The attack came after about 13,000 Christians fled Mosul, an ethnically mixed city of Kurds, Christians and Arabs, following a spate of threats and killings last month. Sunni insurgents are believed to be behind the campaign to drive them out.

Some families were starting to return because the security situation had shown signs of improvement, de Mistura said, citing a report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

He called on Iraqi authorities at the national and local level to protect Christians and other minorities in Iraq and to ensure those behind the attacks “are swiftly brought to justice.”

Tensions are high in Mosul, where U.S. and Iraqi troops have been trying since last spring to rout insurgents from Iraq’s third largest city.

On Wednesday, an Iraqi soldier opened fire on a group of U.S. soldiers at an Iraqi military base there, killing two of them and wounding six others before dying in a hail of bullets, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.

There were conflicting accounts about what provoked the attack, which remained under investigation.

Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, commander of U.S. forces in northern Iraq, said it was “premeditated” and occurred in the base’s courtyard as the soldiers waited for two lieutenants to finish a meeting with an Iraqi commander.

But Iraqi military officials, including Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Askari, said the shooting followed a quarrel between the Iraqi soldier and the Americans.

Violence also continued in Baghdad, which has seen a spate of deadly bombings this week.

A bomb attached to a minibus exploded as the vehicle was traveling from Baghdad to the southern city of Nasiriyah, killing one passenger and wounding seven others, Iraqi police and hospital officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to release the information.

The U.S. military confirmed the attack but said only that eight civilians were wounded. The discrepancy couldn’t immediately be reconciled.