BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Bombings and mortar attacks targeting Christians killed at least three people and wounded dozens in Baghdad, Iraqi security sources said on Wednesday, 10 days after a bloody siege at a Catholic church that killed 52.
The attacks renewed fears among minority Christians that Sunni Islamist insurgents were trying to drive them out of their homeland and reignite sectarian warfare, while Iraq’s political leaders squabble over the formation of a new government.
Attackers detonated bombs or fired mortar rounds in more than a dozen attacks on Christian targets in the Iraqi capital late on Tuesday and early Wednesday, the security sources said.
An Iraqi police source put the toll at three dead and 37 wounded, while an Interior Ministry source said four people were killed and 33 wounded. Both sources asked not to be named.
“What can we do? They are chasing Christians in every neighbourhood in Baghdad,” Emmanuel III Delly, the Chaldean patriarch of Baghdad, told Reuters in a telephone interview, his voice shaking. “We can’t do anything to stop them, but to pray to God they stop these crimes.”
Tensions have been running high in predominantly Muslim Iraq since a March election that produced no clear winner, leaving Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish factions jockeying for position in a new government and raising fears of renewed violence.
Insurgents linked to al Qaeda have claimed responsibility for a string of recent attacks that appeared aimed at reigniting the sectarian bloodshed that ravaged Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and which began to abate three years ago.
Fifty-two hostages and police were killed on October 31 in a raid on the Our Lady of Salvation cathedral in central Baghdad, prompting vows from the Iraqi government to step up security for Christians.
That attack was followed two days later by a series of explosions across mainly Shi’ite areas in the city in which at least 63 people died.
The latest spree of bombs and mortars spanned the capital. Mortars landed in the southern Doura district while bombs were planted near Christian homes in Doura, Camp Sara in the east, Adhamiya in the north, Mansour in the west, Karrada in the centre and other areas.
“These operations, which targeted Christians, came as a continuation of the attack that targeted the Salvation church,” the interior ministry source said.
Um Noora, 46, a government employee and a Christian who lives in Camp Sara, said she was terrified and did not know whether to leave Iraq or stay.
“My whole body is shaking. I did not go to work today. I did not let my daughter go to her university,” the mother of three said.
“We do not know what is our destiny. They might attack us at any moment, God only knows. It is the government’s responsibility to protect us. We are in a trap — the sea is in front of us and the enemy behind us. We do not know what to do.”
Patriarch Delly said it was obvious insurgents were trying to drive Christians out of Iraq.
“Iraq is our beloved country and Muslims are our brothers, so why they are doing this? Why they are targeting us?”
Additional reporting by Reuters Television; writing by Jim Loney; Editing by Michael Christie and Mark Trevelyan