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Baghdad grinds to halt as bomb attacks blanket a reeling city

Sixteen bombs struck Baghdad Tuesday, prompting a snap curfew and shocking a city still coming to grips with a deadly attack Sunday on a Catholic church.

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"To the international conscience, I say, we want peace and stability in this country – Why can't you feel for us? That there is a people here that want to survive," he said.

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Mourners shouted demands for more security as government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh spoke to the congregation. “We need security – we need protection,” one woman shouted from the crowded church pews.

“We demand the formation of the government,” another woman called out angrily during a speech by Amr al-Hakim, head of the Islamic Supreme Council for Iraq, one of the main political parties involved in talks to form a coalition.

The attack Sunday by insurgents driving with guns and explosives in an area of Baghdad with multiple checkpoints appears to have been a serious security breach.

The Iraqi government ordered the commander of the police battalion responsible for security in the neighborhood detained for investigation.

The Iraqi government also tightened security around churches in Baghdad and closed roads leading to them. At Our Lady of Salvation, where splattered blood could still be seen on the ceilings and one of the wooden doors blown open by Iraqi commandos, federal police surrounded the building.

“The problem is, no one is really held accountable,” said a senior police officer in the church courtyard. “All the political parties are fighting for positions and they are leaving people out of the equation – they’re not thinking about how to provide security.”

The officer, who did not want his name used because he is not authorized to speak publicly, said he believed Al Qaeda was using the political chaos to reemerge. The Islamic State of Iraq, linked to Al Qaeda, claimed credit for the attack Sunday.

“Their weapons had Osama bin Laden written on them. Even their ammunition – it’s the first time we’ve seen anything like this,” he said, adding he believed they had bases in the Karrada neighborhood.

The two priests killed in the attack are being revered as martyrs. Weeping parishioners reached out to touch their coffins as they were carried down the aisle.

In the back row of the memorial service, the cousins of Father Waseem Qas Boutros, who had been a priest for only four years, said he had been shot by the insurgents after rushing toward them when they shot a child.

“There is no future for Christians in Iraq,” said his cousin Firas Bahjat al-Dabbagh. “Frankly speaking, the government cannot protect people who want to live in peace.”

Mohammed al-Dulaimy and Sahar Issa contributed to this report.

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