July 13, 2009 / 8:44 AM / 10 years ago

Iraq curfew in some Christian areas after church bombs

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The ethnically mixed Iraqi city of Mosul imposed a curfew on vehicles in Christian neighborhoods Monday, responding to a spate of bomb attacks targeting churches in Baghdad, police said.

The curfew, mostly affecting suburbs on the outskirts, was to be lifted at 2pm (1100 GMT) Monday. It was imposed to prevent similar bombings around the northern city, still Iraq’s most violent and home to most of the country’s Christians.

Bombs exploded outside five Christian churches in Baghdad on Sunday, in apparently coordinated attacks that killed four people and wounded more than 30, Iraqi police said.

In the most serious attack, a car bomb exploded near a church in eastern Baghdad, killing four people and wounding 21.

Iraq’s Christians, who number about 750,000, are a small minority in a mainly Muslim country of about 28 million people. Christians have sporadically been targets, mostly in Baghdad and Mosul, leading many of them to flee abroad.

Baghdad security spokesman Qassim al-Moussawi said that, while there was no curfew in Baghdad, Iraqi security forces had stepped up measures to protect religious sites in the capital, which are frequent targets for militants hoping to stoke sectarian tensions.

“Today we took measures to redeploy the security forces to concentrate on the vital targets for us, like mosques and Hussainiyas (Shi’ite mosques),” Moussawi said.

“We expect the coming period is a decisive stage in Iraqi history, especially as we near elections (in January), so we expect some terrorist operations, but we will never allow things to go back to square one,” he added.

The sectarian violence that nearly tore Iraq apart in 2006 and 2007 has faded but militants still carry out attacks.

Some 2,000 families, an estimated 12,000 people, fled Mosul after a campaign of threats and attacks on Christians there in October last year, but many have since returned.

Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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