Bombers target Baghdad churches

Four people killed as Christian churches come under attack across Iraqi capital.

    Iraq's estimated 750,000 Christians have been
    the sporadic targets of attacks [AFP]

    In the northern city of Kirkuk on Sunday, armed men assassinated Aziz Rizqo Nisan, the head of the provincial audit department - a Christian in a city divided along ethnic and sectarian lines.

    US withdrawal

    Although violence has fallen significantly from a peak following the US-led invasion in 2003, there has been an increase in attacks as US combat troops have pulled out of the centre of towns and centres.

    In depth


     Baghdad 'returning to normal'
     Iraqi sovereignty day 'premature'
     Video: US commander wary of withdrawal
    Video: Handover leaves Iraqis cautious
     Inside Iraq: The battle for security 
     Inside Iraq: What next for Iraq? 

    Two explosions outside a billiard hall in Baghdad on Saturday killed at least one person and wounded at least 20 others and a roadside bomb in the Saydiya district killed a junior cabinet official.

    Despite the violence, a senior US military official said on Sunday that there had been calls for help with urban combat since the withdrawal on June 30.

    "Here's what has not happened: there have been no requests for combat forces to return back into the city, any city," said Lieutenant-General Charles Jacoby Jr, the head of day-to-day operations in Iraq.

    "There are established protocols for how [Iraqi forces] might ask for that, but we have not been asked for combat forces."

    Jacoby acknowledged that there had been an increase in violence in recent days, but said that it had been expected, particularly in the Nineveh, Kirkuk and Diyala provinces.

    "The networks were waiting for this time period and I think they're going to punch themselves out," he said.

    General Babaker B. Shawkat Zebari, the Iraqi army chief of staff, said that armed groups targeting the government had been reduced to just a few cells, but they could continue attacks for "a year, or two or three".

    He said that the Iraqi military would get help from American forces if needed, but would also rely on assistance from its own citizens.

    "To face terrorism, the Iraqi army does not need tanks or armoured vehicles, but needs intelligence, fast communication and people's support," he said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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