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Two killed in attacks on Christians in Iraq capital

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 30 Dec 2010 20:40 GMT
Author: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2010. Click For Restrictions.
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2010. Click For Restrictions.
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* Attacks follow al Qaeda threats

* Thousands of Christians fleeing Iraq

BAGHDAD, Dec 30 (Reuters) - Two people were killed and at least 16 wounded in a series of bomb attacks on Thursday on the homes of minority Christians in the Iraqi capital, security sources said.

The blasts occurred after al Qaeda-linked militants threatened to step up attacks on Iraqi Christians during the Christmas period, two months after 52 people were killed when gunmen stormed a Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad.

An Interior Ministry source and police sources said up to 10 explosions targeted Christians in Baghdad. In the worst attack, two people thought to be Christians were killed in a blast in the Ghadir district of eastern Baghdad.

Major General Qassim al-Moussawi, a spokesman for the Baghdad operations command, put the toll at one dead, denying the victim was a Christian, and six wounded. He said two other bombs were defused before they exploded.

Some 1,000 Christian families, or 6,000 people, have fled to Iraq&${esc.hash}39;s northern Kurdish region, or to regional countries, since the Oct. 31 assault on the cathedral, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said earlier this month.

Iraq&${esc.hash}39;s Christians once numbered about 1.5 million but are now believed to have fallen to less than 850,000 out of a population estimated at 30 million.

In its latest threat, the Islamic State of Iraq, the local affiliate of al Qaeda, said Iraqi Christians risked further attacks unless they pressured the Christian church in Egypt to release a group of people it said the church was holding after they had converted to Islam.

Iraqi Christian leaders say they fear Sunni Islamist al Qaeda wants to drive them out of the country. The vast majority of the tens of thousands of civilians killed in violence since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion have been Muslim.

(Reporting by Baghdad Newsroom; Writing by Michael Christie; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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