Iraq blames al-Zarqawi for bombing

Taipei Times

Iraq blames al-Zarqawi for bombing

RELIGIOUS ‘WEDGE’: The Jordanian-born militant was trying to force
Christians out of the country, officials said, while a Turkish hostage was
reportedly executed

Tuesday, Aug 03, 2004,Page 6

A US soldier stands guard yesterday in front of a Christian Syriac church in
Baghdad which was targeted on Sunday by a suicide car bomb.
The Iraqi government yesterday blamed al-Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi for
a series of church bombings that killed at least 11 people, saying the aim
was to spark religious strife and drive Christians out of the country.

Muslim leaders condemned the car bombings that were timed for Sunday evening
services in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul. The attacks were the
first on churches of the minority Christian community since the start of a
15-month insurgency.

“There is no shadow of a doubt that this bears the blueprint of Zarqawi,”
said national security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie.

“Zarqawi and his extremists are basically trying to drive a wedge between
Muslims and Christians in Iraq. It’s clear they want to drive Christians out
of the country,” he said.

The Jordanian-born militant has claimed responsibility for a series of major
car bombings in Iraq since former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was ousted
last year as well as the killing of foreign hostages.

An Islamist Web site yesterday showed photographs of what it said was the
killing of a Turkish hostage by a group linked to Zarqawi. But a Somali held
by militants also linked to Zarqawi is to be freed after his Kuwaiti
employer agreed to halt operations in the country, alJazeera television

Rubaie said Iraq’s national security council was to hold an emergency
meeting yesterday to discuss the blasts that hit at least five churches in
the country, including four in Baghdad.

The bomb attacks near the four Baghdad churches killed 10 people and wounded
more than 40, the US military said, adding the blasts occurred within a
30-minute period.

Witnesses and officials had said earlier that as many as 15 people had been
killed, including at least one person killed by a bomb at a church in Mosul.

The US statement gave no details of casualties from Mosul. It said Iraqi
police had found and cleared an explosive device that contained 15 mortar
rounds outside a fifth Baghdad church.

Christians account for about 3 percent of the population of Iraq, where
attempts to provoke conflict have mainly focused on Sunni Muslims and
members of the Shiite Muslim majority, who were oppressed by Saddam.

There are 800,000 Christians in Iraq, most of them in Baghdad. Several
recent attacks have targeted alcohol sellers throughout Iraq, most of whom
are Christians of either the Assyrian, Chaldean or Armenian denominations.

Adnan al-Asadi, a senior member of the Shiite Dawa Islamic party, said
Muslims shared the pain of the Christian community.

“We reject these criminal acts which want to create religious and sectarian
strife in Iraq,” he said.

“We do not differentiate between these acts which are in violation of
religious and Islamic laws because the perpetrators of these acts … are
the same people who strike Iraqi mosques and centers for the internal
security forces,” he said.

Iraqi Human Rights Minister Bakhtiar Amin said the interim government of
Prime Minister Iyad Allawi was trying its best to combat the insurgents and
uproot their networks.

“This shows there are no borders to the barbarity of the crimes of these
terrorists,” he said in response to the attacks. “No believer of any
religion would do this.”

Parish priest Bashar Muntihorda, speaking outside a Chaldean church in
Baghdad that was hit, said Christians were devastated.
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