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Gunmen Attack Churches in Northern Iraq

MOSUL, Iraq (AFP) -- Two churches in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul came under simultaneous attack, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Gunmen stormed into the city's Chaldean and Armenian churches in the latest attacks on Iraq's minority Christian community, witnesses and clerics said Tuesday.

"Gunmen entered the church at about 4:30 pm (1330 GMT). They gathered those present in one room and planted explosive charges in different parts of the building," said Father Raghid Aziz Kara at the Chaldean church.

"We were then taken outside and the armed men set off the devices. We heard three blasts," he told AFP outside the church which was set ablaze.

At the same moment, gunmen attacked an Armenian church, forcing out a security guard and two other people inside the building, the guard said, adding: "I heard two explosions."

The Chaldean church, one of the largest in Mosul, was built in the 1950s and enlarged four decades later.

The Chaldeans, whose 600,000 people represent the majority of Christians in Iraq, are an oriental rite Catholic community.

Armenian Christians in Iraq number only a few thousand.

On November 8, at least three people were killed and 45 wounded when two suspected car bombs exploded within minutes of each other outside two churches in southern Baghdad.

In a coordinated assault on August 1, six car bombs killed 10 people and injured 50 others outside churches in Baghdad and Mosul.

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