Al Qaeda, airstrikes and . . . churches?

Iraqi Christians Struggle To Celebrate Christmas

Earlier this week, news broke that two top Al Qaeda leaders were killed in an airstrike carried out by U.S. troops:

The deaths of Abu Ayyub al-Masri, as the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq is known, and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the alias of the head of an umbrella group that includes al Qaeda in Iraq, should disrupt insurgent attacks inside the country, officials said. Their slayings could also provide Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki with a decisive political boost at a critical time.

I read some interesting stories about the men but was somewhat surprised today to read that they were killed while plotting attacks on Christian churches. But I didn't read that in any mainstream report. It was in this EWTN story that reported on local news coverage:

Military operations against Al Qaeda terrorists thwarted a number of attacks against Baghdad churches, the Prime Minister of Iraq has said. Indirectly confirming the reports, a Chaldean bishop reported that security forces had warned of a "strong risk" of attacks . . .

The prime minister said the terrorists were planning a number of attacks against the churches of Baghdad and the action thwarted the plan, according to news reports.

The EWTN story goes on to quote the Chaldean bishop talking about the extra security the churches had in recent months.

It's not that surprising that these guys were planning to attack churches. Christian churches have been targets of violence in Iraq for years. Just this past Easter a bomb was set off near a Chaldean Church and St. George's Anglican Church in Baghdad suffered "severe" damage on Easter morning when a bomb exploded near its compound.

This is not a new story but it's an important one and I worry about the failure to note what's going on with Christian churches in Iraq. Note that this report published today in the Washington Post (by the same reporter who filed the first story I excerpted above) manages to explain the targets of another mastermind who was recently captured:

Iraqi officials said Thursday that they have detained the mastermind behind a string of bombings last year that targeted key government facilities in the capital.

It's interesting and important to know that government facilities have been targeted. But it's also important to note that worship spaces and religious adherents are being targeted as well.

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