Iraq: dozens killed in church siege

Our Lady of Salvation

Our Lady of Salvation

A siege in one of Baghdad's largest Catholic churches ended on Sunday night leaving at least 37 people dead and twelve injured.

A group of gunmen wearing suicide vests walked into the Syrian Catholic Church of Our Lady of Salvation during Mass. They held more than 50 parishioners hostage for several hours and threatened to kill them if al Qaeda prisoners were not released.

The siege was finally broken on Sunday evening when Iraqi security forces stormed the church. Iraqi spokesman Major General Qassim al-Moussawi told Reuters that five gunmen were killed during the rescue operation as well as one policeman a parishioner and one of the priests celebrating Mass.

The Christian community in Iraq has suffered persecution since the war.  Many thousands have fled abroad. In this case it is still not known why the church was targetted. Some reports suggest that the gunmen had first planned to attack the stock exchange which is neaby.

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