Monday, December 13, 2010

Iraqi Christians Flee Wave Of Targeted Violence : NPR

http://www.npr.org/2010/12/13/132026958/iraqi-christians-flee-wave-of-targeted-violence
Iraqi Christians hoping to emigrate to France following a spate of violence against Christians across Iraq wait last month outside the French Consulate in the northern city of Irbil.
Iraqi Christians hoping to emigrate to France wait outside French Consulate in Irbil
Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi Christians hoping to emigrate to France following a spate of violence against Christians across Iraq wait last month outside the French Consulate in the northern city of Irbil.
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December 13, 2010
In Iraq, a wave of attacks targeting Christians is leading to an exodus from Baghdad and other cities. Before the 2003 U.S. invasion, there were nearly 1 million Christians in the country. That number was cut in half in the past several years.
Now, with the latest violence, families are seeking refuge in northern Iraq and trying to emigrate.
The latest spate of attacks on Christians started at Our Lady of Salvation Church, a Syrian Catholic church in a mixed, middle-class neighborhood in Baghdad.
During evening mass on Oct. 31, militants climbed the walls of the church, shot scores of worshipers, took hundreds more hostage, and then detonated suicide vests when Iraqi security forces mounted a rescue attempt. In all, 58 people died.
On a recent Sunday, bullet holes and signs of a battle remain all over the church. Toward the front doors is the telltale spray of a suicide bomber: bits and pieces of hair and skin stuck to the ceiling.
Iraqi Christians inspect damage at Our Lady of Salvation Church
Enlarge Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi Christians inspect damage last month at the altar of Our Lady of Salvation Church, a Syrian Catholic church in central Baghdad. U.S. and Iraqi forces stormed the church on Oct. 31 to free dozens of hostages in an attack by al-Qaida gunmen.
Iraqi Christians inspect damage at Our Lady of Salvation Church
Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi Christians inspect damage last month at the altar of Our Lady of Salvation Church, a Syrian Catholic church in central Baghdad. U.S. and Iraqi forces stormed the church on Oct. 31 to free dozens of hostages in an attack by al-Qaida gunmen.
Iraqi police recently arrested a man who they say was the mastermind behind the attack. They say he is a top leader in the local branch of al-Qaida.
Threats Escalate
Just a few days after the church siege, homemade bombs targeted houses belonging to Christian families around Baghdad.
A mother of two, who only wants to give her name as Um Milad, or "mother of Milad," says she was just starting her day when she heard the boom.
"I woke up at 6 o'clock because I had to prepare my kid for school," she says. "And as we were in the room, suddenly all the glass were shattered. 'Are we being bombed from somewhere?' "
That somewhere turned out to be inside the family's home. Militants had sneaked in and planted a bomb. The explosion set the house on fire. The family escaped from the roof.
They were so scared, they actually sought refuge inside Our Lady of Salvation Church — the church that was attacked on Oct. 31.
Christians around Baghdad have been getting threats by text messages and envelopes with bullets inside.
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