07/13/2009, 00.00
IRAQ

Car bomb against Mosul church as Mgr Warduni calls attacks in Baghdad premeditated

In northern Iraq Our Lady of Fatima Church is hit; nearby Shia mosque is also damaged. Local sources warn of new attacks “against churches and monasteries”. A new Christian exodus is feared. For auxiliary bishop of Baghdad attacks were “organised”; he appeals for peace.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – A car bomb exploded this morning near Our lady of Fatima Church in Mosul. So far no casualties have been reported but the building was seriously damaged. The incident is the latest in a wave of violence against Christian places of worship. Yesterday seven Chaldean and Orthodox Churches were hit in Baghdad.

The Chaldean Church of St Mary, in Sharaa Philistine, was the worst hit. It is where the patriarchal vicar of Baghdad, Mgr Sleimon Wardouni, officiates.

“The situation is serious. The attacks against churches were carried out in concert; a sign they were not random but premeditated and organised,” Mgr Warduni told AsiaNews.

For the auxiliary bishop of Baghdad the Church of St Mary was “heavily damaged” but “I am more concerned about the two young people who were killed in the blast. Damages can be repaired but the lives of the two young people who were coming out after Mass where they had prayed for peace . . . that is the saddest thing.”

“An atmosphere of mistrust and negativity prevails among Christians,” the bishop said. “What harm or misdeed have we done to deserve these attacks? Perhaps our fault is to want peace, to love everyone,” he added. “Let us pray that the world shakes off its apathy and firmly demands peace.”

This morning a car bomb also exploded in Mosul’s Faisalia neighbourhood. It hit Our Lady of Fatima Church as well as a nearby Shia mosque. For now the bomb’s target remains unclear.

However, a local source told AsiaNews that churches and monasteries have received threats and that police have warned about “new attacks.”

According to the source the new wave of violence could be connected to “the upcoming provincial elections in Iraqi Kurdistan” and be a warning “to the local Christian community about the vote.”

In Karakosh authorities have imposed a curfew, closing access point to and fro the town. In turn this might trigger another “Christian exodus from the city” after a period of relative calm that had convinced many families to return home.

For a source in Baghdad, who spoke to AsiaNews anonymously for security reasons, there is no connection between the attacks against churches, which have the hallmark of al-Qaeda, and the murder of a woman in Germany dubbed the “veil martyr”.

“There are many [unanswered] questions. I cannot exclude police complicity in the attacks against the churches,” the source said, since “Christian buildings are guarded by police and it is highly unlikely that anyone can get in them and place a bomb without anyone seeing him.”

In Baghdad there is talk about a “possible connection” between anti-Christian attacks and provincial elections in oil rich Kirkuk, an area that has become a major bone of contention between Arabs and Kurds.

“When elections are on the horizon Christians always become targets for attacks,” said the source.

This morning another car bomb exploded near the US Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill as he travelled in a motorcade. The US diplomat was not injured and early reports indicate that no one was hurt.

According to the AsiaNews source, US presence in Iraq and support from the Christian world might provide another “possible explanation” for the attacks.

“Some fringe elements in the country view this close relationship as a betrayal of Iraq’s sovereignty or as taking a political position.” (DS)

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