6/30/07 BAGHDAD, IRAQ (BosNewsLife)– Officials in Iraq said Saturday, June 30, that the death toll in n suicide attacks grew to 23, adding to concerns within the dwindling Christian community, some of whom work with the US-led coalition and security forces.
One of the latest reported attacks happened as a crowd of Iraqi police recruits gathered in a crowded market area in a town about 60 miles (96 kilometers) north of Baghdad. At least 17 other people were reportedly wounded.
The attack against police was expected to be closely monitored by family members of Fouad Salim, a Christian who was reportedly killed by militants this month in Baghdad as he left his work at a police station in the Razaliyah area.
His brother in law suggested to Compass Direct News he was he therefore mixed feelings when eight other kidnapped Christians from his hometown of Qaraqosh were released last week Friday, June 22.
The Syrian Catholic, apparently speaking on condition of anonymity, said his brother in law was killed “because of his religion. Militants, he said, “asked him to be Islamicized [convert to Islam], and when he refused they killed him.
Salim, 32, left behind a wife and two children, a 5-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter. The incident underscored concerns among the estimated 50,000 Iraqis displaced by violence each month. Many have fled to Iraqs relatively stable northern region.
However Im not gong to stay in Iraq, because Iraq is the land of death,” Salims wife, still in shock, apparently told her relatives when she arrived in Qaraqosh, a village 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the northern town of Mosul.
Salims story comes amid growing concern among human rights groups about persecution of Christians. In a Baghdad neighborhood that once held 50 Christian families, the remaining two were reportedly forced to flee after their car was bombed over two weeks ago.
A middle-aged Chaldean couple from Hai Al-Jamiyah district was quoted as saying they were forced to leave home with only the clothes on their backs when militants planted a bomb beside their car. Area residents spoke of how Christians should leave the area, the couple said. Their own children and grandson left two months prior, Compass Direct News reported.
The husband and wife said that even though local militias had not demanded that they pay jizya, an Islamic tax exacted from non-Muslims under Muslim rule, they felt their lives were threatened after their car was bombed and armed gunmen forced them to leave home without any of their possessions.
Earlier militants in Baghdads Amariyah district reportedly set off a bomb in the garden of a Christian home, forcing the family to leave. Several other families from Sayedia neighborhood were forced to flee their houses after militants threatened them with “consequences” similar to those faced by Christians in Baghdads Dora district.
The United States military has so far been unable to ease the tensions, despite a growing security presence in Baghdad and other areas. Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly strongly condemned US forces in May after they had occupied the churchs seminary and college in Dora last April, though some church leaders felt troop presence would keep away looters.
The buildings had stood empty since staff relocated classes to the northern village of Ankawa for security reasons. When war began over four years ago there were still an estimated 750,000 Christians in Iraq, but church sources fear at least half of them have now left the country to neighboring Jordan and Syria.
The US military has made clear it wants to end the attacks by militants and US and Iraqi forces raided the stronghold of an anti-Western Shiite cleric, killing approximately 26 suspected militants and detaining 17 others.
Before dawn on Saturday, June 30, US and Iraqi forces, backed by helicopters, launched two separate raids on the Shiite district of Sadr City, the stronghold of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia.
US military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Garver, said American troops entered the Shiite enclave in search of militants suspected of helping Iranian terror networks fund operations in Iraq.