As Christian Iraqis were leaving a Catholic church Christmas Day service, a bomb exploded in a parked car, killing 26. earlier in an outdoor market in the al-Athorien district of that same city, a bomb (some reports are of two bombs) killed 11. Both sites were in the Dora area of Baghdad. The total dead is so far reckoned at 37; 52 wounded.
A local police officer was quoted after the blast as saying that near the church a car was parked that exploded while families were hugging and saying goodbye before leaving the church and that it was a strong explosion.
No one has claimed responsibility for the bombings. Christian leaders have denied that the attacks had targeted their members. Many observers blame the attacks on al-Qaeda, which organization has been reported to be on the rise in Iraq. The rise in al-Qaeda in Iraq has been linked further to the rise of al-Qaeda among the turmoil in Syria. The Iraqi government is actively pursuing rebel militants in the western desert.
Since Saddam Hussein was removed in 2003, Churches across Iraq have been the targets of attack. In 2010 a notable armed attack on a Catholic Cathedral killed 50 people. Violence in Iraq has risen in 2013 after a relative lull since 2008. Many of these attacks have been attributed to Sunni militant rebellion against the Shi’ite government. Since 2003 more than 1000 Iraqi Christians have been killed and 62 churches and monasteries have been vandalized or destroyed.
Iraq’s Christian population has reduced from around 900 000 to around 300 000 in recent years. The number was 1.5 million before the 2003 U.S. invasion. Iraqi Christians attend churches protected by security and barricades.
Iraq is listed as number four on Open Doors 2013 list of the worst persecutors of Christians, behind North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.
Written by Day Blakely Donaldson