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Car bomb targeting Christmas mass in Baghdad leaves 17 dead

A further 34 were injured in the attack, which happened in the Dura area of the Iraqi capital.

A CAR BOMB targeted a church in the Iraqi capital today as worshippers left after Christmas Mass, killing at least 17 people, most of them Christians, security officials said.

The blast in the Dura area of south Baghdad also wounded at least 34.

“The attack targeted the church, and most of the martyrs are Christians,” a police colonel told AFP.

The attack on St. John church occurred when worshippers were leaving “after attending Christmas Mass” he said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

“Attacks distort the image of Islam and religion, if they are carrying them out in the name of religion,” Monsignor Pios Cacha of Baghdad’s St. Joseph church told AFP.

“The church is a place of love and peace, and not for wars,” Cacha said.

Earlier in the year, Cacha had said that “maybe we will follow in the steps of our Jewish brothers,” referring to a once-thriving community that has since emigrated in droves.

Iraq has seen its Christian population sharply decline in the years since 2003, when the United States led an invasion of the country that ended the rule of dictator Saddam Hussein, as they were caught up in violence.

Before 2003 more than a million Christians lived in Iraq. Now there are around 400,000, according to Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako, head of one of the world’s oldest Christian communities.

Some 61 churches have been attacked in the decade since the US-led invasion, Sako said, with more than 1,000 Christians killed in violence, albeit not all in targeted attacks.

Violence in Iraq has surged this year to levels not seen since 2008, when the country ws just emerging from a brutal period of sectarian unrest.

More than 6,650 people have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of 2013, according to AFP figures based on security and medical sources.

© AFP 2013

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