12/22/2004, 00.00
IRAQ
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Carnage at US base in Mosul, 22 dead and more than 60 injured

Violence still strikes Christians in Mosul; three local churches targeted on Monday. Two French journalists freed.

Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In another day of blood and violence, a US base in Mosul was struck leaving 22 people dead and more than 60 injured whilst three local churches were attacked. The only positive note was the liberation of two French journalists—Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot—abducted four months ago.

In what was their deadliest attack against coalition forces, terrorists killed 20 US and 2 Iraqi soldiers injuring another 66 according to the latest casualty figure.

Camp Merez, a US base in Mosul (northern Iraq), was attacked by mortar rounds at lunch time when the mess tent was full of military personnel.

Ansar al-Sunna, a fundamentalist group tied to al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the operation on a Web site. It said that a mujaheddin commando carried out the suicide mission.

The same group had claimed responsibility for the decapitation of 12 Nepalese workers in August.

US President George Bush immediately condemned the attack and stated that he would "pray for the [victims] and send heartfelt condolences to the loved ones who suffered today". He emphasised however that he was still confident that "democracy will prevail in Iraq; I know a free Iraq will lead to a more peaceful world".

Meantime, terrorists have not stopped targeting Iraqi churches.  According to Mgr Mar Polous Faraj Rahho, Chaldean Bishop of Mosul, Muslim fundamentalists attacked three churches on Monday, December 20: the Bishop's House of the Syrian-Orthodox Church at St Mary Afram, the Syrian-Catholic church in al-Bashara and the Chaldean Bishop's House next to the al-Tahira church.

In the last case, it was the second time this month the building was a terrorist target. On December 7, bombs were placed inside the Chaldean Bishop's House destroying what Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Emmanuel Delly told AsiaNews was "the most beautiful symbol of the Chaldean Church in Iraq".

In the midst of all this violence the only good piece of news is the liberation of Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot, two French journalists held by the 'Islamic Army in Iraq' since August.

The two men are expected back in Paris this afternoon where they should be welcomed by France's highest authorities, their colleagues (France's media had mobilised en masse to obtain their liberation) and ordinary citizens.

The families of the two journalists told the press that "their liberation was the greatest Christmas gift they could get".

The French government has not said whether a ransom was paid.

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