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IRAQ WARS
37 hostages killed in Baghdad church drama: official

Qaeda claims capture of Iraq Christians, warns Egypt: SITE
Baghdad (AFP) Nov 1, 2010 - An Al-Qaeda group claimed its fighters had captured Christians in Iraq and gave the Coptic church in Egypt a 48-hour deadline to release alleged female captives, the SITE monitoring group said Monday. The Islamic State of Iraq said an "angry group of mujahedeen from among the supporters of Allah raided one of the filthy dens of idolatry that was used by the Christians of Iraq as a headquarters to fight the religion of Islam," SITE reported. The statement, posted on jihadist websites, was released after a bloody end to a hostage drama at a Catholic church in Baghdad on Sunday.

Iraqi and US forces stormed the Sayidat al-Nejat church in the Karrada neighbourhood of the Iraqi capital after gunmen took dozens of worshippers hostage after evening mass. At least seven worshippers were killed and at least 13 wounded in the rescue operation, officials said. Eight gunmen were also killed. The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) made no mention of the date or location of its raid, which it said was launched "to help our weak captive Muslim sisters in the Muslim country of Egypt". It said it was giving the Coptic Church in Egypt 48 hours to indicate the status of Muslim women "imprisoned in... the monasteries of disbelief and the churches of idolatry in Egypt" and to release them or its fighters would kill the Iraqi Christian captives.

SITE said the threat to Egypt 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 Al-Qaeda group also issued an audiotape from a fighter reiterating the threat to the Coptic church and identifying the women in Egypt as Camellia Shehata and Wafa Constantine, SITE said. "The end will not stop at killing the hostages only," the fighter with a suicide battalion was quoted as saying. "Not only in Iraq, but in Egypt and the Levant and the rest of the countries in the area; there are hundreds of thousands of your people amongst us and hundreds of churches, and all of them will be targets for us if you do not comply."

Militants fire at NATO supply truck in Pakistan, three hurt
Peshawar, Pakistan (AFP) Nov 1, 2010 - Taliban fighters armed with assault rifles fired at two NATO tankers in northwestern Pakistan on Monday, wounding three people, police said. "Around eight militants in two cars intercepted two oil tankers near the town of Pabbi on the Grand Trunk road and fired at them with Kalashnikovs," local police official Hayat Khan told AFP. "Two drivers and a helper were wounded and taken to hospital in Peshawar. Their condition is stable now," Khan said, adding that oil leaked from the tankers but did not catch fire. Intelligence officials in Peshawar also confirmed the attack and said the attackers fled the scene. Pakistan shut the main Khyber Pass border crossing to NATO supply vehicles heading to Afghanistan on September 30 for 11 days after a cross-border NATO helicopter assault killed two Pakistani soldiers. The bulk of supplies and equipment required by foreign troops in Afghanistan is shipped through the Khyber region. Scores of NATO supply vehicles were destroyed in gun and arson attacks while the Khyber crossing was shut, as Taliban militants stepped up efforts to disrupt the route and avenge US drone strikes.
by Staff Writers
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
Seven Christians killed in Iraq church hostage drama
Baghdad (AFP) Nov 1, 2010 - US and Iraqi forces stormed a Baghdad church to free dozens of hostages Sunday in a drama that officials said left seven Christians dead and for which an Al-Qaeda group claimed responsibility.

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.



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Riyadh (AFP) Oct 31, 2010
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