US condemns attacks on Iraq’s Christians

5678.jpgBAGHDAD (AFP) — The United States on Tuesday condemned attacks on Iraqis, including those against Christians in the northern city of Mosul, where a surge in violence against the community has provoked an exodus.

“The US embassy in Baghdad condemns the recent attacks against Iraqis in cities such as Baghdad and Nineveh, including those attacks targeting Christian communities in Mosul,” an embassy statement said.

A series of a dozen murders over the past few weeks has prompted 1,307 families of Iraq’s mixed Christian minorities to flee their homes to the relative safety of the countryside, according to Jaweat Ismael, head of Mosul’s bureau of displaced people.

Heavy police reinforcements have helped staunch the flight from Mosul, long considered one of the country’s most dangerous cities as well as Al-Qaeda’s last urban stronghold in Iraq.5678-1.jpg

A small bomb placed on the door of a Syrian Catholic church in Mosul’s Alsaa quarter exploded on Tuesday evening, damaging the city’s oldest Christian house of worship without injuring anyone, police said.

Police were at loss to explain how the assailant breeched the heavy security set up around the the city’s churches.

Iraqi authorities have yet to publicly announce who they believe is behind the campaign of violence, although Al-Qaeda is suspected.

“The terrorist groups responsible for these attacks have shown again that their enemy is the Iraqi civilian population,” the US embassy said.

“They are seeking to create divisions among Iraqi communities and undermine the progress Iraq is making in building an inclusive, democratic and prosperous society.”

It said US-led forces were working with Iraqi security forces to respond to changing tactics by insurgent groups and foster improved security for all citizens of the province of Nineveh, of which Mosul is the capital.

Ali al-Dabbagh, Iraq’s government spokesman, reiterated the government’s pledge to take the necessary steps to protect Christians through intensive military and security operations as well as investigations and financial aid.

A government envoy and the Nineveh operations centre commander have met local Christian leaders in the two Christian neighbourhoods of Mosul, Bartolla and Hamdaniyah, a US statement said.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has also pledged to defend the threatened community.

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) on Tuesday joined in the condemnation of the attacks on Christians.

OIC chief Ekmeleddin Ihasanoglu said the violence in Mosul was “unprecedented in the history of Iraq” and called upon the Iraqi authorities to “prosecute the culprits who are behind these acts.”

The 57-member Islamic grouping always calls for “respecting minorities in the Muslim world,” he said.

Iraq’s Christian community includes various denominations, including Syrian Orthodox and Catholic, Armenian Orthodox and Roman Catholic congregations.