INTERVIEW-Iraq's al Qaeda focused on Christian attacks-US

Thu Jan 6, 2011 5:55pm GMT

* Al Qaeda targeting Christian homes

* Iraqi security giving Christians extra protection

By Serena Chaudhry

BAGHDAD, Jan 6 (Reuters) -Al Qaeda in Iraq is targeting Christians in their homes after Iraqi authorities increased protection around the minority group's churches, a U.S. commander said on Thursday.

Lieutenant General Robert Cone, the U.S. deputy commanding general for operations in Iraq, said the Sunni Islamist group seemed determined to continue attacks against Christians following a siege of a Catholic cathedral two months ago.

"Al Qaeda has shifted to try and go after the Christians where they live," Cone told Reuters in an interview.

"Right now they seem to be focused on the Christians," he said, adding that there was no intelligence to suggest attacks were being planned against other minorities in the country.

A series of bomb attacks on the homes of minority Christians in Baghdad last Thursday killed two people and injured at least 16. The blasts followed an Oct. 31 assault on a Syrian Catholic cathedral in the Iraqi capital in which 52 people were killed.

The Islamic State of Iraq, the local affiliate of al Qaeda, has said Iraqi Christians risk further attacks unless they pressure the Christian church in Egypt to release women it said the church was holding after they had converted to Islam.   Continued...

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