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Iraqi Christians target of new violence

October 13, 2008|Ned Parker | Times Staff Writer

BAGHDAD — New violence against Christians in the northern city of Mosul has sparked an outcry from Iraq's religious minority. In the last week, local officials said, many Christian families have fled the city after coming under attack from Sunni Arab militants.

Christians have been targeted along with other sects and ethnic groups since 2003. More than 900 Christian families have fled Mosul in the last week, said Jawdat Ismail, the director of the Ministry of Displacement and Migration in Nineveh province.

Iraq's Defense Ministry was more cautious about the displacements. A ministry spokesman, Mohammed Askari, told the U.S.-funded Al Hurra satellite TV news channel that the ministry believed Christian families had left the city.

Nineveh, whose capital is Mosul, has been a frontline in the simmering conflict between Kurds and Arabs over northern Iraq's future boundaries. The tensions have helped fuel violence that has targeted Christians, along with members of other ethnic and religious groups, including Kurds, Shabaks and Yazidis. Sunni Arabs also have been targeted in the violence.

Meeting with Christian politicians Sunday, Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, promised the beleaguered community protection. Additional army and national police units were being stationed in Mosul, government spokesman Ali Dabbagh said in a statement. At times, Christian leaders have blamed both Sunni Arabs and Kurds alike for the bloodshed.

Mosul was rocked by a car bomb Sunday that targeted a passing U.S. military convoy. The blast killed five Iraqis, a police official said. Another car bomb exploded 15 miles west of the city, killing two policemen, the officer added.

The violence against Christians coincides with a debate in Baghdad over whether minority groups should be guaranteed seats on Iraq's provincial councils after an election law was approved in late September that failed to reserve them any positions on the local panels. The elections are expected to be held before the end of January.

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ned.parker@latimes.com

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