Baghdad (AINA) -- A car bomb exploded outside of St. John Catholic Church in Dora, a Christian neighborhood in south Baghdad, as worshippers were leaving the church after attending Christmas Mass. The explosion killed 27 and wounded 56. A second bomb exploded in an outdoor market also in Dora, in the Athorien (Assyrian) quarter, killing 11 and wounding 21.
Speaking to the AFP, a police colonel said "The attack targeted the church, and most of the martyrs are Christians. The attack happened when worshippers were leaving the church."
Another policeman told Reuters "A car parked near the church exploded when the families were hugging each other goodbye before leaving. The blast was powerful...Bodies of women, girls and men were lying on the ground covered in blood. Others were screaming and crying while they were trying to save some of their wounded relatives."
The Patriarch of the Chaldean Church, H.H. Louis Sako, issued a statement saying the attack was not directly targeted at the church. Also, Archdeacon Temathius Esha, an Assyrian priest in Dora, told AFP "The church has nothing to do with the attack, the attack was against the market."
The Dora neighborhood was formerly a Christian neighborhood, with over 150,000 Assyrians living there. Beginning in 2004 a sustained series of church bombings, kidnappings and killings by Al-Qaeda affiliated groups forced most the residents to flee, most with literally just the clothes they wore, as they were not allowed to take any of their belongings with them (report). Now there are only about 3000 Assyrians remaining in Dora.
73 churches have been attacked or bombed since June, 2004: 45 in Baghdad, 19 in Mosul, 8 in Kirkuk and 1 in Ramadi.
On October 31, 2010 Al-Qaeda terrorists attacked Our Lady of Deliverance Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad on Sunday evening during a church service. When police raided the church the terrorists set fire to their explosives, ultimately killing 58 parishioners, including two priests (reports, pictures).