Iraq Heightens Church Security after Bombings

The Iraqi government has increased security for Christian places of worship after the latest string of bombings killed four people and wounded another 35.

Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf, Iraq's Interior Ministry spokesman, said the ministry issued directives to raise security at churches across the country, according to CNN.

Meanwhile, Iraq's vice president Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni Muslim, "strongly condemned" the attacks on churches in a statement posted on his Web site. He called on the country's security forces to locate the culprits and allow justice to take place.

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Over the course of just 48 hours, seven Iraqi churches were bombed – starting midnight Saturday with a church in Baghdad.

Following the first bombing, another five Baghdad-area churches were bombed on Sunday – the last of which was attacked at 7 p.m. as worshippers left mass. The explosion killed four people - three Christians and one Muslim – and injured at least another 32.

Then on Monday, a church in the northern city of Mosul – which is home to Iraq's largest Christian population outside of Baghdad – was bombed. Three children were injured in the attack, caused by a detonated car bomb.

Following Monday's bombing, authorities imposed a partial ban on vehicles in Mosul's Christian neighborhoods to prevent similar bombings. Only cars of residents of the area have been allowed to enter.

The top United Nations envoy to Iraq, meanwhile, called on all parties, including the government, to redouble their efforts to protect the country's Christians, as well as its other minority communities.

The latest "orchestrated" campaign "is aimed at terrorizing vulnerable groups and preventing the peaceful coexistence of different religious groups in what is one of the world's cradles of religious and ethnic diversity," said Ad Melkert, the U.N. Secretary-General's newly-appointed Special Representative for Iraq.

A redoubling of efforts to protect minorities in the country will contribute to preserving Iraq's cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, he added.

According to an Iraqi American rights activist Michael Youash, the whole church bombing tragedy and its aftermath could have been prevented.

Youash, who serves as project director Washington-based Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project, said Assyrian sources had received warnings of the attacks via text messages and had informed U.S. authorities in Iraq of the impending attacks.

But because of the U.S.-Iraq agreement on American troop withdrawals, the U.S. authorities reportedly said they could not act themselves but would pass the information to the Iraqi military, which were now in control of Iraqi cities.

"There was clearly a failure to take preventative steps by Iraqi and U.S. forces which allowed those planning the attacks to carry them out unimpeded," said Youash, according to Assyrian International News Agency.

Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, there has been a disproportionate amount of persecution of the Christian community. Facing relentless violence and threats on their life, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to leave their homeland. The U.N. High Commission for Refugees estimates that some 250,000 to 500,000 Christians have left the country since 2003.

Notably, while Christians make up only three percent of Iraq's population, they account for nearly half of the refugees leaving the country.

Furthermore, more than 200 Christians have been killed since 2003.

The latest string of church bombings has reportedly struck deeper fear into Iraq's Christian community. It has also caused grave concern among Iraq's Christian leaders over whether or not the church can survive given the rate of Christians fleeing the country because of violence.

Christian Post reporter Eric Young contributed to this article.

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