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Church Bombings Mar Start of Ramadan in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Blasts rocked five Christian churches in four Baghdad neighborhoods early Saturday -- as a string of violent incidents marred the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Homemade bombs detonated at the churches in a series of explosions from 4:20 a.m. to 6 a.m. local time, causing damage but no casualties.

A CNN crew was at the scene of one of the bombings -- St. George's Church -- where they saw extensive damage. Soldiers believe 60 pounds of explosives was used in that attack.

St. Jacob's Church, St. Joseph Church, St. Thomas Church, and the Church of Rome were also struck.

Although most Iraqis in the country of 26 million are Muslims, Christians number about 700,000.

They are linked by some Muslim militants to the coalition because some work in Iraqi government ministries or for groups set up by coalition authorities.

Merchants who sell liquor are usually Christians, seen as a transgression by hard-line Muslims.

No one has claimed responsibility for the church attacks.

Sectarian violence has occurred over Iraq in the past few months.

In August, insurgents launched deadly attacks on four churches in Baghdad and one in Mosul.

Those attacks were blamed on the Abu Musab al-Zarqawi terror network. Two weeks ago, men armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles killed seven Christians leaving their jobs at a social club in Baghdad.

The al-Zarqawi network, suspected in the August church attacks, remains the focus of almost-daily strikes by U.S. forces working to oust militants entrenched in Falluja.


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