Iraq: bombs blast three churches

 Three churches were bombed in Iraq yesterday. Police say there were explosions by two churches in the Karada area of Baghdad, which is a busy shopping area. A short time later a car bomb was detonated outside a church in the northern city of Mosul. Several people are reported to have been killed and dozen have been injured. Witnesses in Baghdad say a car bomb exploded outside an Armenian church shortly after the evening Mass had begun. The blast shattered stained glass windows and threw hot metal across the road hitting many men, women and children. Minutes later, as ambulances raced to the scene, the second blast went off outside a Syrian Catholic church nearby. Syrian Catholic Bishop Rafael Kutami said: "It's a crime. It's Sunday. We were at Mass. There were a lot of women and children." Another Syrian priest said: "There are so many injured and we don't know how many. We were coming out of the church." At one time there were a million Christians in Iraq. There are now about about 650,000, making up about three per cent of the population. The main communities are Chaldean Catholics, Assyrian, Armenian, Syrian Orthodox and Syrian Catholic. Under Saddam Hussein's secular regime they were relatively safe. But since the war the communities have expressed fears that they could become targets for attack, because radical groups are associating them with the occupying forces. Christian shops, which sell alcohol have also come under attack in recent months.

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