At Least 28 Dead, Over 100 Wounded in Iraq Attacks
1 US Soldier from 1st ID among Killed
Early Sunday in Mosul, guerrillas attacked a police station, killing 5 persons, including 2 police, and wounding 53 (-al-Hayat).
Later in the day, guerrillas bombed 5 Christian churches, some while evening mass was just ending, 4 in Baghdad and one in Mosul, killing at least 12 worshippers and wounding over 50 in Baghdad and 11 in Mosul, according to The Guardian. Al-Hayat says one of the churches in Karrada, Baghdad, was an Assyrian place of worship, while the other was an Armenian Catholic church. (Most Assyrians are theological descendants of the old Nestorian church, and are not, unlike the Chaldeans, in communion with Rome, but this church was Syrian Catholic and so is. The Armenian Orthodox Church is independent, but some Armenians are in communion with Rome, and this one was). The other churches hit belonged to the Chaldean rite, which follows the Pope.
The coordinated attacks, targeting churches in separate places in Baghdad and also in the city of Mosul, is proof that the US and its Iraqi caretaker government have made no progress whatsoever in tamping down the guerrilla insurgency in the country, which appears to be able to strike at will.
Iraq probably has about 750,000 Christians (about 3 percent of the population), the majority Chaldean Catholics who hold their services in Aramaic (the language of Jesus) and look to the Pope as their leader. Chaldean Christians have been targeted and killed for running liquor stores by radical Islamists in the past year, and there was one terrorist attack on a Chaldean school in the north, but this is the first systematic assault on the community. Many of the attacks on liquor stores have been carried out by radical followers of Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr. The bombings on Sunday, however, were likely the work of Sunni radicals. For background on the Iraqi Christians, see this BBC profile.
The attackers see the Chaldeans, as Christians, as emblems of Western domination of Iraq and inroads of Christian ways (thus the assassination of Chaldean liquor store owners). They may also have calculated that attacks on Christians on a Sunday would get the attention of the US public. It seems likely that the attacks were the work of some radical Islamist group. Similar attacks on Christians have been perpetrated by jihadi radicals in Pakistan.
The Christians have a population center in Ninevah province, and some have asked for a Christian-majority province to be gerrymandered there. Many Christian leaders have vocally defended the US war on and occupation of Iraq. Chaldean leaders have expressed frustration that they were accorded only 60 or so of the 1000 seats at the national congress to be held in mid-August. (This apportionment is actually quite generous, and they probably only deserved 30, but Iraqi minorities are all convinced that they are much larger in numbers than they really are).
Guerrillas detonated a remote-controlled bomb near Samarra as a US patrol passed, killing one soldier from the First Infantry Division and wounding two others.
Fighting continued between insurgents in Fallujah and US troops, leaving 10 Iraqis dead on Sunday. Some 13 had been killed in the Fallujah fighting on Saturday.
Although the US authorities will blame the church bombings on al-Qaeda or Zarqawi, it is entirely possible that they are the work of the same Iraqi radical groups fighting in Fallujah (given the distribution of the bombings, moreover, the cell is likely to be based in Mosul, an old-time center of Iraqi radical Islamism).