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Christmas bombings in Iraq

December 25, 2013

Bombs have exploded in Christian areas of Iraq's capital, Baghdad. The deadly blasts occurred near a church and a busy marketplace on Christmas day, amid a surge in violence in the country this year.

A map of Iraq showing the location of Baghdad

At least 35 people were killed and dozens more wounded in Wednesday's attacks, with the most fatalaties in the south of the city.

"Two roadside bombs exploded in a popular market in Dora, killing 35 people and wounding 56," interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan told the AFP news agency.

Initial reports by security officials stated a car bomb had targeted a church as worshippers were leaving a Christmas service but that was later denied by Maan.

An Assyrian priest in Dura along with Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako also insisted the church was not the target.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Violent year

The minority Christian population of Iraq has sharply declined following years of sectarian violence which followed the 2003 United States-led invasion of the country. It is estimated one million Christians have left in the past decade.

This year has been the most violent in Iraq since 2008 in terms of sectarian clashes, with more than 6,650 people having been killed since the beginning of 2013, according to figures gathered by news agency AFP.

Hardline Sunni Muslim militants linked to al Qaeda have been increasing attacks on the Shiite-led government and its supporters. Dozens of Shiite Muslim pilgrims were killed in a series of car bombs, shootings and suicide attacks in the lead-up to the Shiite holy day of Arbaeen, which coincided with Christmas Eve this year.

se /rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)