Armenian Church Among Five Bombed over Weekend in Iraq

Noyan Tapan, Armenia
Aug 9 2004

Armenian Church Among Five Bombed over Weekend in Iraq

BAGHDAD (Combined Sources)–The Armenian Apostolic Church condemned
on Monday the weekend wave of bomb attacks on
an Armenian Catholic church and four other Christian worship sites in
Iraq that left 11 people dead and more than 50 others wounded. The
series of coordinated explosions rocked five churches across Baghdad
and the northern city of Mosul on Sunday, killing at least 11 people
and injuring dozens more in the first attacks targeting the country’s
Christian minority since the 15-month violent insurgency here began.

The attacks began just after 18:00 local time, when an attack parked
a vehicle packed with explosives and mortar bombs in front of an
Armenian church in the Karada neighborhood of Baghdad. The blast,
just 15 minutes into the evening service, blew out windows and
damaged cars and nearby houses. Some 20 minutes later, as survivors
gathered in the streets and rescue workers streamed to the scene, a
second blast occurred in front of the Assyrian Catholic church only
500 meters away.

There was no word on whether there were any Armenians among the dead.
“I saw injured women and children and men, the church’s glass
shattered everywhere,” Juliette Agob, a woman who was inside the
Armenian church during the first explosion, was quoted by the
Associated Press as saying. The church’s governing Mother See in
Etchmiadzin, said although none of its churches and other property in
Iraq was targeted in the apparently coordinated series of explosions
on Sunday, it is deeply saddened by the loss of life. “The Armenian
Apostolic Holy Church expresses her sympathies to the families of the
victims and all Iraqi people, and wishes complete recovery to the
wounded and injured,” the office of Catholicos Garegin II said in a
statement. “We pray that the centuries of friendship and peaceful
co-existence among Christian and Muslim peoples in the East will not
be endangered by similar condemnable violence; for peace to be
re-established in the region; and that the Iraqi people continue with
the creation of their safe and progressing lives.”

“I saw wounded women and children and men, the church’s glass
shattered everywhere. There’s glass all over the floor,” said
Juliette Agob, who was inside the Armenian church during the first

After the second bombing, Iraqi police rushed to search other
churches in the city. The sweeps turned up a sixth bomb, which was
neutralized by American sappers. However, as police hunted for more
bombs, two more explosions occurred, one outside the Chaldean
Patriarchate in the southern district of Dora and the other in New
Baghdad in the eastern part of the city.

The attack on the Chaldean Patriarchate occurred as worshippers began
arriving for Mass around sunset. Five people were killed, including a
child. The LA Times quoted witnesses who described seeing two men
pull up in separate cars, park them near the church, then casually
walk away. Minutes later, the vehicles exploded, hurling shrapnel in
all directions and leaving gaping craters in the road.

The apparent target of the attack in New Baghdad was St. Elya’s
Chaldean Church. However, a nearby Shiite mosque bore the brunt of
the blast. Both the mosque and the church were holding funerals at
the time of the attacks. In the Mosul attack, insurgents parked a
white Toyota Supra packed with explosives and mortar shells outside a
Catholic church. The assailants first launched a rocket toward the
building and then detonated the car bomb, according to a US military
statement. The blast killed a passing motorist and wounded four other
people. The church office was badly damaged, but there was little
damage to the church itself. Police said the toll could have been
higher if all the mortar shells in the car had detonated. The attacks
all used similar modus operandi; carbombs filled with explosives and
crude bombs made of mortar shells were parked in front of the

The drivers left the vehicles and detonated the explosives by remote
control. None of the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers. The
methods and materials used were a departure from the high-profile
attacks on Shiite targets earlier this year, leading some experts to
believe they were carried out by a different group.

Numbering some 750,000, the minority Christians were already
concerned about the growing tide of Islamic fundamentalism, so long
repressed under Saddam Hussein. The majority of the Christians are
Chaldean Roman Catholic, the rest Syrian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox
and Assyrian. Most live in Baghdad and its outskirts and some dwell
further to the north. Islamic radicals have warned Christians running
liquor stores to shut down their businesses, and have turned their
sights on fashion stores and beauty salons. The increasing attention
on this minority community has many within looking for a way out.
Many are in neighboring Jordan and Syria waiting for the security
situation to settle, while others have applied to leave the country.