Bomb Attack on Iraqi Christian Students Spurs Thousands to Protest

Thousands of Christians marched through the streets of Hamdaniyah in northern Iraq on Monday to protest against Sunday's bomb attack that killed one and injured around 100.

The roughly 2,500 to 3,000 Iraqi Christians who took part in the demonstration used it to call upon the country's prime minister and government to intervene in the plight of their community, which has suffered more than a dozen violent deaths so far this year.

Christians in Iraq have been the target of attacks for years and violence against the shrinking community escalated earlier this year, ahead of the March 7 elections. At least 10 Iraqi Christians were killed by unknown gunmen in Mosul in February.

In the latest attack, two bombs exploded Sunday morning near buses carrying Christian students from Hamdaniyah to Mosul University, killing a shop owner in the area and injuring students and other civilians.

Mosul, which is home to a large Christian community, has been the site of a number of attacks targeting Iraqi Christians, who some extremist Sunnis consider to be supporters of the Shiite-led government they oppose.

Following the latest attack, a telegram written on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI called on "all men and women of good will to hold fast to the ways of peace and to repudiate all acts of violence which have caused so much suffering."

The telegram, sent to Syrian Catholic Archbishop Georges Casmoussa of Mosul, said the pontiff was "deeply saddened by the news of the tragic loss of life and injuries" caused by the bombs

Since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, some 250,000 to 500,000 Christians, or about half the Christian population, have left the country, according to the U.N. High Commission for Refugees.

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