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A doorbell rings, a new attack on Iraqi Christians

ICC Note:

Seven attacks against Christian homes in Baghdad on December 30th were confirmed by Iraqi police. Others have reported twelve attacks. At least two Christians were killed, and thirteen were wounded that night, including an elderly couple in their late 70s who found a bomb at their doorstep hidden in a luggage bag. Militants left it there and rang the doorbell. When the couple opened the package, the bomb ignited and killed them instantly.

1/1/2011 Iraq (AP) — The latest bloody attack on Iraq’s Christians was brutal in its simplicity. Militants left a bomb on the doorstep of the home of an elderly Christian couple and rang the doorbell.

When Fawzi Rahim, 76, and his 78-year-old wife Janet Mekha answered the doorbell Thursday night, the bomb exploded, killing them, Mekha’s brother told The Associated Press on Friday. Three other people, apparently passers-by, were wounded.

“When I went there, I found both of them cut to pieces near the gate of their house,” said the brother, Falah al-Tabbakh, 47, who had been at a funeral nearby in the eastern Baghdad district of Ghadir. He rushed to his sister’s house after neighbors called him, and they told him what happened, he said.

The bombing was among a string of seemingly coordinated attacks Thursday evening that targeted at least seven Christian homes in various parts of Baghdad that wounded at least 13 other people, a week after al-Qaida-linked militants renewed their threats to attack Iraq’s Christians.

The attacks are the latest since an Oct. 31 siege of a Baghdad church by al-Qaida killed 68 worshippers, terrifying the minority community, whose numbers have already fallen dramatically in the past seven years of violence in Iraq.

The repeated attacks have infuriated many Christians who question why the government seems unable to protect them despite its repeated promises since the church siege to do so.

“The Christians in Iraq are always targeted because they do not have militias and they do not believe in the power of weapons,” said Father Nadhir Dakko, a priest at St. George Chaldean Church, who performed the funeral service for the slain couple.

Speaking to reporters after the service, Dakko railed against what he called the government’s inability to “establish peace and security” for all Iraqis, Muslim and Christian. All Iraqis are suffering, he said, but the situation is harder for Christians because they are a minority.

“Iraq is bleeding every day,” he said.

Iraq’s violence has struck all its various religious groups, and hundreds of thousands have fled the country since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. But the ranks of Christians have been particularly depleted, in part because their numbers were not large to begin with — estimated at 1.4 million before the war. Now an estimated 400,000 to 600,000 Christians are left, according to a recent U.S. State Department report.

The Ghadir district where the elderly couple were killed shows the signs of the flight. In the past its population was predominantly Christian, with some Sunni Muslims. Both communities have fled in large numbers since 2003, and many houses have since been bought by Shiites from the nearby Shiite stronghold of Sadr City.

Father Mukhlis, a priest at Our Lady of Salvation church, the target of the October siege, said as many as 12 violent incidents occurred against Christian homes across the capital Thursday night.

Police officials confirmed seven attacks against Christian homes. They and hospital officials confirmed the deaths of Rahim and Mekha and 13 wounded in the various attacks. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

In the other attacks Thursday night, four bombings targeting Christians wounded six people. A stun grenade landed inside a Christian house in the Dora district in southern Baghdad, injuring three others, and a rocket hit a Christian home in downtown Baghdad, wounding one person.

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