4 Baghdad churches bombed in 24 hours

Family members of Rizko Aziz Nissan grieve before his funeral in Kirkuk, Iraq, on Sunday.
Four Baghdad churches were bombed in less than 24 hours and eight civilians were wounded, officials said Sunday.

Three bombs exploded outside churches Sunday afternoon, wounding the civilians, an Interior Ministry official said. The bombs detonated within a 15-minute span, between 4:30 and 4:45 p.m. Two of the churches are in central Baghdad’s al-Karrada district, and the third is in al-Ghadeer in eastern Baghdad. The churches were damaged in the bombings, the official said. Saturday night, a church in western Baghdad sustained damage in a double bombing, the official said. The two bombs placed inside St. Joseph’s church detonated at around 10 p.m. local time. There was no one in the church at the time of the attack. St. Joseph’s was one of six churches hit by coordinated bombings of Christian houses of worship in Baghdad and Mosul in 2004. The church is in the al-Jamiaa neighborhood of Baghdad, a former stronghold of al Qaeda in Iraq. There have been recent reports of an increase in targeted attacks in the area.

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Many of Iraq’s estimated 1 million Christians have fled the country after targeted attacks by extremists. In October, more than a thousand Iraqi families fled the northern city of Mosul after they were reportedly frightened by a series of killings and threats by Muslim extremists, who apparently ordered them to convert to Islam or face possible death. At least 14 Christians were killed in Mosul in the first two weeks of October. Separately, gunmen shot and killed an official in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Sunday morning, a local police official told CNN. Using guns with silencers, the assailants opened fire on Rizko Aziz Nissan outside his home in central Kirkuk at 8:15 a.m. Nissan was an Iraqi Christian, but the motives behind his killing were not immediately clear. Kirkuk is 150 miles (240 kilometers) north of Baghdad.