Baghdad (AFP) Nov 1, 2010
Thirty-seven people taken hostage by militants in a Baghdad church were killed and 56 wounded in a drama that was ended when US and Iraqi forces stormed the building, a government official said Monday.
"The latest toll is that 37 of the hostages were killed and 56 wounded," an Iraqi interior ministry official said after Sunday's attack on the church, claimed by an Al-Qaeda group.
He said that seven security forces personnel also were killed and 15 wounded, but did not specify if any were Americans.
Five attackers were killed and eight arrested, he said, adding there had been more than 100 worshippers at the Sayidat al-Nejat church in central Baghdad when the hostage-takers stormed in.
The SITE monitoring group said Monday that Al-Qaeda group The Islamic State of Iraq claimed its fighters were behind the attack.
earlier related report
All eight gunmen who raided the church were also killed when US and Iraqi forces mounted a joint operation to rescue worshippers held in the Sayidat al-Nejat church in central Baghdad, officials said.
The gunmen attacked during evening mass after killing two guards at the nearby headquarters of the Baghdad stock exchange.
"We released the hostages but unfortunately seven of them were killed and 20 of them wounded," an interior ministry official told AFP.
A defence ministry official said 13 people had been hurt in the rescue operation and that the gunmen had been holding 40 hostages.
At least one of the deaths came before the rescue operation: one of the freed hostages, an 18-year-old man, said the first thing the gunmen did when they entered the church was to shoot the priest.
"They entered the church with their weapons, wearing military uniforms. They came into the prayer hall, and immediately killed the priest," he said, declining to give his name.
All the hostages had been huddled into the main prayer hall when the gunbattles began with security forces, he said.
"We heard a lot of gunfire and explosions, and some people were hurt from falling windows, doors and debris."
Officials said that nine gunmen had raided the church in the Karrada neighbourhood but one had blown himself up with a suicide belt as police made a first attempt to enter.
"We killed the eight terrorists inside the church," an Iraqi soldier said.
Officials refused to speak about casualties among security forces.
"We came here to help the police and army free the hostages, and we released them with the help of the Americans," a member of Iraq's anti-terrorist unit told AFP.
The Chaldean bishop of Baghdad, Bishop Shlimoune Wardouni, earlier told AFP that the gunmen were demanding the release of detainees held in Iraq and Egypt.
The SITE monitoring group said Monday that Al-Qaeda group The Islamic State of Iraq claimed its fighters had captured the Christians in Baghdad and also gave the Coptic church in Egypt a 48-hour deadline to release alleged female captives.
It said an "angry group of mujahedeen from among the supporters of Allah raided one of the filthy dens of idolatry that was always used by the Christians of Iraq as a headquarters to fight the religion of Islam and to support those who fight that religion," SITE said.
The group said it was giving the Coptic Christian Church in Egypt 48 hours to release Muslim women "imprisoned in... the monasteries of disbelief and the churches of idolatry in Egypt".
SITE said the threat comes amid calls by jihadists and Al-Qaeda's media arm for Muslims to take action against the Egyptian Coptic church over the alleged imprisonment of two women, both wives of Coptic priests.
It said jihadists believe one of the women had converted to Islam and was then imprisoned in a church, while the second had allegedly wanted to convert to Islam and suffered the same fate.
The Vatican, Italy and France were among the first to condemn hostage-taking.
Around 800,000 Christians lived in Iraq in 2003 but their number has since shrunk to 550,000 as members of the community have fled abroad, according to Christian leaders.
Iraqi Christians have been frequently the target of violence, including murder and abductions. Hundreds have been killed and several churches attacked since the US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Violence has abated in Iraq since its peak in 2006-2007, but deadly bombings, gunfights and kidnappings are still routine.
The US military officially ended combat operations in Iraq at the end of August, but 50,000 troops still remain in the country.
Share This Article With Planet Earth
Iraq: The first technology war of the 21st century
Saudi FM says Iraqis support Riyadh-sponsored talks
Riyadh (AFP) Oct 31, 2010
Iraqi political leaders have signalled support for a Saudi proposal to host talks aimed at resolving the political deadlock in Baghdad, the kingdom's foreign minister said on Sunday. Despite no high-level official Iraqi reaction yet to King Abdullah's call for talks in Riyadh, "what we have heard is general support for the initiative," Prince Saud al-Faisal said. "They appreciate the ini ... read more
Ariane 5 Lofts Dual Birds|
Payload Preparations Underway For Fifth Ariane 5 2010 Mission
Sea Launch Company Emerges From Chapter 11
Ariane 5 Rolls Out For Dual Bird Launch
NASA Trapped Mars Rover Finds Evidence of Subsurface Water
Study Links Fresh Mars Gullies To Carbon Dioxide
2013 Earliest Launch Date For China Mars Mission
A One-Way Trip To Mars Would Be Affordable
Dead Spacecraft Walking
Surviving Lunar Dangers
NASA Awards Contract To Team FREDNET Google Lunar X PRIZE Contender
Collision Spills New Moon Secrets
Kuiper Belt Of Many Colors
Reaching The Mid-Mission Milestone On The Way To Pluto
New Horizons Student Dust Counter Instrument Breaks Distance Record
Nitrogen Methane Dominate Icy Surface Of Eris
Solar Systems Like Ours May Be Common
Astronomer Greg Laughlin To Talk About Earth-Like Planets
NASA Survey Suggests Earth-Sized Planets are Common
Planets Discovered Around Elderly Binary Star
Initial 30-Day Findings From DM-2 Rocket Engine Program
Commercial spacecraft launch test delayed
DLR Launches 'STERN' Rocket Programme For Students
U.K. predicts 'spaceplane' in 10 years
China says manned space station possible around 2020
China Kicks Off Manned Space Station Program
NASA chief says pleased with 'comprehensive' China visit
The International Future In Space
Space Radar Provides A Taste Of Comet Hartley 2
NASA Spacecraft Preps For Comet Flyby
Contract Signing Gives Galileo System Its Operators
Countdown To Comet Flyby Down To Nine Days
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2010 - SpaceDaily. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement|