2 Christian Families Attacked in Iraq; 3 Dead

Two Christian families in the city of Kirkuk, Iraq, were attacked Sunday night in two separate incidences, according to the police.

The first attack on a Christian woman and her daughter resulted in the deaths of both, while the second attack left one man dead. Two others – the father and the brother of the slain man – in the latter attack were wounded.

Round-the-clock security patrols and check points have since increased around the area as fears that further attacks could spark a mass exodus of Christians from the area.

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Last October, more than 15,000 Iraqi Christians were reportedly driven out of the northern city of Mosul after 13 local Iraqi Christians were killed within four weeks, including three within 24 hours.

Since 2003, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled to neighboring countries and some 750 Christians have been killed in Iraq, according to Archbishop Louis Sako, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Kirkuk.

The Christian population in Iraq is now about half of what it was before U.S.-led forces invaded the country and toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, leading to the rise of Islamic extremists such as al Qaeda in Iraq.

But more Christians have been returning in recent months, including as many as 800 Christian families who have returned to southern Baghdad's Dora neighborhood in the past six months, according to Col. Samir al-Timimi, the Iraqi police commander for the district.

Since 2007, calls for Iraqi Christians to return have increased, many of which note their role in rebuilding the violence-riddled country.

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