Qaeda forces Iraqis to cancel Christmas

2010-12-21 21:23

Kirkuk - Al-Qaeda threats against Christians have led to Christmas festivities being cancelled in the northern Iraqi oil hub of Kirkuk, its Chaldean Catholic archbishop said on Tuesday.

"The Christians of Kirkuk will not celebrate the feast of Christmas this year, except for masses, which will not be held at night but at 10:00, after myself and 10 other Christian personages received threats from the so-called Islamic State of Iraq," Monsignor Louis Sarko told AFP.

"I fear that Christians will be targeted, which is why all ceremonies have been cancelled."

The Iraqi affiliate of al-Qaeda, the ISI, claimed responsibility for an October 31 attack on a cathedral in Baghdad in which 44 Christian worshippers, two priests and seven security force personnel were killed.

It said it acted to force the release of people who had allegedly converted to Islam from Christianity and were being detained by the Coptic Church in Egypt.

Days later it declared Christians everywhere "legitimate targets".

Less than two weeks after the church attack, a string of bombings targeting Christian homes and shops in Baghdad killed six more people.

Mujahedeen threats serious

"You would have to be blind not to take seriously the demands of the mujahedeen (holy warriors), and that will cost you dearly," Sarko quoted an ISI e-mail as saying.

"You must listen to our demands and condemn the Christians in the church in Egypt who are fighting our brothers and sisters who have become Muslims.

"You must make the same effort to free our sisters who are imprisoned in the churches of Egypt that you do to save Tareq Aziz from hanging."

Aziz, the only senior Christian member of Saddam Hussein's regime, was handed the death penalty on October 26 for the suppression of Shi'ite religious parties in the 1980s.

Sarko's announcement comes a day after human rights group Amnesty International called on the Iraqi government to step up protection of Christians.

Amnesty "called on the Iraqi government to do more to protect the country's Christian minority from an expected spike in violent attacks as they prepare to celebrate Christmas," the London-based group said in a statement.

"Attacks on Christians and their churches by armed groups have intensified in past weeks and have clearly included war crimes," Malcolm Smart, Amnesty's director for the Middle East and north Africa, said in the statement.

"We fear that militants are likely to attempt serious attacks against Christians during the Christmas period for maximum publicity and to embarrass the government," Smart added.

Between 800 000 and 1.2 million Christians lived in Iraq at the time of the US-led invasion of 2003 that toppled Saddam's regime, but their number has since dropped to about 500 000 as many have fled abroad.

The multi-ethnic oil hub of Kirkuk now has only some 10 000 Christians, compared with 50 000 before the invasion.

  • sekou - 2010-12-21 22:12

    This is very bad act from Iraq

  • Terry Lunt - 2010-12-22 02:00


  • Lukas de Kock - 2010-12-22 03:36

    More peaceful messages from Islamic groups. Such thugs.

  • gbrits2009 - 2010-12-22 11:52

    Just shows what a hateful religion Islam is !!!

      Reason777 - 2010-12-25 18:28

      Here's some advice for those who comment that all Muslims are evil and that Islam is a religion of hate: Wiki Al-Queda and take a look at estimates of how large the organisation is. Do the math for yourself and you will see that this fanatical group represents less that 0.01% of the Muslim world. Also, Google "Fatwa on terrorism"... Further, enlighten yourself on what Islam teaches by visiting this website (as opposed to becoming formulating your view in response to bad news - which is pretty much 80% of the news that make the airwaves, regardless of the sphere of life): Better yet, before making any statement about Muslims and Islam, how about you visit a mosque, ask to speak to a person who is knowledgeable about Islam and discuss these issues with them. Surely it makes no sense to formulate a view on a religion and its people without having spent a significant amount of time in their company.

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