Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
BAGHDAD, IRAQ (ANS) -- On Dec. 25 2013, multiple news agencies (including the Assyrian International News Agency, or AINA) reported twin bombings in Dora.
The aftermath of the bombing outside
St. John Catholic Church. (via AINA)
That's a formerly Assyrian (also known as Chaldean and Syriac) and Christian neighborhood in southern Baghdad.
According to a story by AINA, one bombing occurred outside St. John Catholic Church.
The explosion killed 27 and wounded 56. A second bomb exploded in an outdoor market, killing 11 and wounding 21.
AINA reported that according to the wire reports, dozens of Christians were killed in the bombings.
AFP quoted a police colonel as saying, "The attack targeted the church, and most of the martyrs are Christians. The attack happened when worshipers were leaving the church."
Reuters reported a police officer as commenting, "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."
However, AINA said, the Patriarch of the Chaldean Church, H.H.. Louis Sako, issued a st atement saying the attack was not directly targeted at the church.
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."
AINA said there is no doubt that these bombings occurred and that dozens of persons were killed. However, questions were raised about the number of Assyrian/Christian fatalities, beginning with Patriarch Sako's statement.
AINA said the agency contacted two Assyrians in Iraq to gain a clearer understanding of the situation.
According to Pascale Warda, Iraq's former Minister of Displacement and Migration, no attacks against churches occurred and there were no Christian casualties.
AINA reported Pascale said, "What some media reported was not right because the attack in Dora was in the market, where some other poor people were wounded, but not a single Christian was hurt, and no church was attacked."
The priest of St. John Catholic Church, Father Firas, told Warda the attack was far fro m the church and there were no Assyrian casualties.
Father Tima, of the Assyrian Church in Dora, also told Warda that his church had not been attacked.
The Christmas mass at St. John ended atand the attack occurred at
According to Susan Patto, an Assyrian in Baghdad, because of previous church attacks, all churches have discontinuedmass and conduct mass very early in the morning, from . Parishioners are also discouraged from congregating outside the church after mass.
The explosion happened after, Patto said.
AINA said she added, "There is a police station about 500 meters from St. John, and the car bomb targeted the police station. The church was closed and no one was there. The story about the church being attacked was first reported by Al-Sharqiya news channel and picked up by other news agencies. Most of (the) fatalities were in the second explosion in the market, while the targeted police station had only few casualties. There are no known Assyrian ca sualties."
According to Warda, the news of Christian casualties was spread by those "who are unhappy with any establishment of security in Iraq."
The Dora neighborhood was formerly a Christian neighborhood, with over 150,000 Assyrians living there.
AINA said 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. Now there are only about 3000 Assyrians remaining in Dora.
According to AINA, 73 churches have been attacked or bombed since June 2004. That's 45 in Baghdad, 19 in Mosul, eight in Kirkuk and one in Ramadi.
On Oct. 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 priest s.
For information about the Assyrian International News Agency visit www.aina.org