[Europe.justus] Baghdad Church Attack Hits Iraq’s Core - NYTimes.com

Bp Pierre whalon bppwhalon at noos.fr
Tue Nov 2 08:48:21 GMT 2010

Dear All,

I had a phone call last night from the chief of staff of the Immigration Minister to ask for help from l'Association d'entraide aux minorités d'Orient to bring the wounded to France for treatment and refuge.

Pray for the Christians of the Middle East, sorely tried in the lands of their ancestors.

Bishop Pierre


Church Attack Seen as Strike at Iraq’s Core

Confusion still reigned Monday over what precisely happened in the attack, in which an affiliate of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown group led by Iraqis, claimed responsibility. An American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said security forces made the decision to storm the church after believing that the assailants had begun killing the hostages. Had they not, he said, the toll would have been even worse.

“Our information was the hostage takers had begun to systematically execute hostages,” he said.

But Interior Ministry officials and survivors offered other accounts. One official said that 23 of the hostages were killed when two of the gunmen detonated suicide vests as security forces stormed the church. Another confirmed that account, but said that many hostages were killed soon after the gunmen, thought to number between 6 and 15, seized the building.

“We received orders to raid the church, so when we did, they blew themselves up and killed many, but they had already killed a number of civilians before the raid, those cowards,” said Jihad al-Jabiri, a senior official in the Interior Ministry.

Several survivors said that many of the casualties occurred when the gunmen entered and began firing randomly — at people, church icons and even windows. They described a ferocity on the part of the gunmen, some of them speaking in dialects from other Arab countries, as though the very sight of the church’s interior had enraged them.

“They seemed insane,” said Ban Abdullah, a 50-year-old survivor.

Her daughter, Marie Freij, was shot in the right leg as the gunmen entered. She lay in a pool of her own blood for more than three hours.

“I thought I would make it, but even if I didn’t, I was in the church, and it would have been O.K.,” she said from her bed at Ibn al-Nafis Hospital.

Before the gunmen entered, Rafael Qutaimi, a priest, had managed to herd many of the other survivors into a back room, where they barricaded themselves behind two bookshelves.

“Peace be upon you, Mary,” some prayed. “God in heaven, help us,” others muttered. In time, the gunmen learned they were there. Unable to break in, they hurled four grenades inside through a window, killing four and wounding many more, survivors said.

Mr. Sami was lucky. He escaped from the back room without any visible wounds. But on Monday, he listed his friends who had died the day before. Raghda, John, Rita, Father Wassim, Fadi, George, Nabil and Abu Saba.

“A long list,” he said simply. He shook his head, growing angry. “Why was Father Wassim killed? I don’t know. Why was Nabil killed? I don’t know.” He turned silent, and his eyes softened with the trace of tears.

Duraid Adnan contributed reporting.

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