A bomb exploded near the Syrian-Orthodox church in the capital, killing two guards and wounding five others. Across the country there were over 20 explosions. AsiaNews sources: attacks to derail the upcoming Arab League summit. The violence set to continue.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The Syrian Orthodox Church of St. Matthew, in Baghdad, is one of the objectives targeted by Iraqi extremists, who this morning carried out a series of attacks across the country to coincide with the ninth anniversary of the U.S. invasion – March 20, 2003 – to overthrow Saddam Hussein Nasser. Church sources in Iraq asking for anonymity for safety reasons, told AsiaNews, that the two guards were killed in the attack, while five others were injured. Meanwhile, the provisional toll from the bomb attacks – in more than 20 explosions – in the capital, in Kirkuk, in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, and Hillah in Mahmoudiya is at least 39 dead and 200 wounded.
AsiaNews sources in Iraq confirm “at least the 20 explosions” in different areas of the country, including the bombing of the church of St. Matthew, which “caused the death of two guards and wounded five other people.” At present it is unclear if the place of Christian worship was the real target of the extremist. In Kirkuk, a city 300 km north of the capital, there were “three blasts that caused about 10 deaths and more than 40 wounded” in a neighborhood where the attackers “have targeted a police station.”
Reports speak of 13 other deaths and fifty wounded in Karbala, the Shiite holy city, where two car bombs exploded. More attacks were reported in Hillah, Latifuyah and other areas of Iraq, although currently there is no official news.
The long trail of blood today marks the ninth anniversary of the U.S. invasion and is just the latest in a series of unending violence that mark a nation divided between Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen, and where Christians are often the victim of revenge caught in the crosshairs of power plays. From 2003 to December 2011, the date of complete withdrawal of U.S. troops, 4,550 U.S. soldiers have died and 300 allies. However, the real carnage regards the Iraqi civilian population, which has around 100 thousand casualties since the war began.
Iraqi political experts interviewed by AsiaNews emphasize that today’s attacks could be linked to the upcoming Arab League summit, to be held in Baghdad – for the first time since 1990 – between 27 and 29 March next. “There are nations – said the expert – who want to derail the summit, because the league is composed of a majority of Sunnis.” Added to this is “the feast of Nawruz”, the traditional celebration that marks the new year for Shiite and Kurdish communities. Born within the pre-Islamic era sacred to the Zoroastrians, it is now observed by many Sufi and Baha’i.
The attackers, said the source, want to strike at key events and “we expect more attacks in the coming hours and days to come.” Violence in Iraq “is not finished.” (DS)