A spate of car bombs exploded outside churches in Iraq last Sunday 29th January in what appears to have been a coordinated attack. The explosions occurred within a half hour period, apparently chosen to coincide with the time at which Christians would be going to church.
Two churches in the northern city of Kirkuk and at least two others in the capital Baghdad were targeted. At least three people, including a 13-year-old boy, were killed and an estimated 16-20 people injured. According to some reports as many as seven churches were bombed.
The bombings were condemned by some Muslim political leaders including Ali al-Adeeb (Shi'a) and Naweer al-Ani (Sunni).
A similar incident of near-simultaneous explosions at Iraqi churches happened on Sunday 1st August 2004 during the time of the evening service. Four churches in Baghdad and one in Mosul were bombed on that occasion, with some 15 fatalities.
LINKS WITH DANISH CARTOONS?
Many Christians in Iraq are connecting this week's church bombings with the growing furore across the Muslim world caused by the publication of some cartoons caricaturing Muhammad in a Danish newspaper on 30th September 2005.
These cartoons have been republished this week by newspapers in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland.
IRAQI CHRISTIAN STUDENTS BEATEN UP FOR DANISH CARTOONS
On the same day, 29th January, Christian students at Mosul University were beaten up by Muslim students. Some days earlier a number of fatwas had been issued by sheikhs in Mosul, acting in reponse to pressure from Islamic militias in the city. The fatwas called for their followers to "expel the crusaders and infidels from the streets, schools and institutions because they insulted the person of the prophet in Denmark".
FATWA FOR KILLING OF THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR CARTOONS
Yesterday, 1st February, a Kuwaiti newspaper reporting on the Danish cartoons stated that Islamic cleric Sheikh Nazem Mesbah had issued a fatwa calling for the killing of people who insulted Muhammad in this way. Other Islamic clerics rejected this fatwa citing the need to comply with the realities of the modern era.