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Iraqi Christians flee homes after fresh Baghdad attacks

Bombings in Baghdad late Tuesday and early Wednesday targeted Christians, killing at least four just 10 days after more than 50 Christians were killed by Al Qaeda-linked gunmen who stormed a church during Sunday mass.

By Jane Arraf, and Laith HammoudiCorrespondents / November 10, 2010

People inspect the scene of a bomb attack in Baghdad, Iraq, Nov. 10. Iraqi Christian families flee their homes, after a wave of attacks.

Khalid Mohammed/AP

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Baghdad

A wave of bombings and mortar attacks struck Christian areas across Baghdad Wednesday, sending families fleeing their homes a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pledged the government would protect them.

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Interior Ministry officials said improvised bombs and a car bomb were detonated near the homes of Christians in at least seven neighborhoods in Baghdad late Tuesday and early Wednesday, killing at least four people and wounding more than 16.

The bombings, which came 10 days after more than 50 Christians were killed by Al Qaeda-linked gunmen who stormed a church during Sunday mass, have sown panic in the close-knit community.

Some fled their homes to seek refuge at the very church which was attacked on Oct 31.

“We were so afraid – we left without taking anything,” says Umm Danny, surrounded by her three children, a niece, and a nephew in the church hall of Our Lady of Salvation in central Baghdad. She said they hear explosions so often in their south Baghdad neighborhood of Dora they didn’t think anything of it until one detonated on their block near the home of a particularly devout Christian family.

“We went barefoot onto the roof and climbed onto our Muslim neighbor’s house,” she says. “They helped us and told us to stay with them but we were afraid.” Umm Danny, who did not want her full name used, said the neighbors cried when they left.

“I think this is only a warning,” says another Christian planning to leave for the Kurdish capital of Erbil. “We are expecting anything at anytime. It seems as if they can do anything without anyone stopping them.”

Government discourages Christian exodus

Mr. Maliki on Tuesday met with senior church leaders, telling them in a meeting aired on state-run television that his government would protect Christians.

He thanked France for sending a hospital plane to take more than 30 of the wounded for treatment but said it "must not be an incentive to emigrate." The Iraqi government has asked the Vatican and the West not to encourage Christians to leave Iraq.

Almost half of the approximately 800,000 Christians in Iraq before the war are believed to have fled – many given refugee status in the West.

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