|Shocked mourners honor the dead Christians|
The recent tragedy October 31 that occurred when Al-Qaida terrorists attacked a Christian Church in Bagdad, Iraq taking hostages and the siege ended in the slaughter of 70 innocent Christians including three priests represents a new strategy by the Osama bin Laden terrorists to target higher profile targets in Iraq.
It seems the Western media had lost interest in the hundreds of thousands of Shiite and Sunni Muslims being killed by the Muslim extremists or terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan among other countries. If nothing else bin Laden has demonstrated since 9-11 that instilling fear in Americans is just as important as the number of deaths that take place and the news of Muslim extremists killing Muslims no longer is news worthy.
Apparently going after the Christian minority in Iraq insures much broader news coverage and the result was exactly that. Lost in the American news coverage of the wars have been the hundreds of thousands of Muslim Shiites slaughtered at the hands of Sunni terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan. Christian targets, on the other hand, indicates an expansion of the bloodbath to Christians and since America is a Christian nation it will get attention.
One wonders if Al-Qaida might have made a tactical mistake as the extension of attacks to include the Christians could be a unifying action for all Muslims who are opposed to the terrorist cause. We can only hope that peace loving Muslims will help stop the terrorist expansion to save their countries. The following AP account provides background on the latest terrorist activity so you can understand the terrible situation that faces any Muslims seeking peace.
France has offered temporary asylum to the Christian victims who want to leave Iraq and dozens have already moved to France. International outrage has been fast and furious but will it help reinforce the will of the Iraqi people to oppose the terrorists? In a nation that has been unable to form a new government since elections almost 6 months ago, any form of unity would be welcome.
By SINAN SALAHEDDIN, Associated Press Sinan Salaheddin, Associated Press
BAGHDAD – Al-Qaida's front group in Iraq has threatened more attacks on Christians after a siege on a Baghdad church that left 58 people dead, linking the warning to claims that Egypt's Coptic Church is holding women captive for converting to Islam.
The Islamic State of Iraq, which has claimed responsibility for Sunday's assault on a Catholic church during Mass in downtown Baghdad, said its deadline for Egypt's Copts to release the women had expired and its fighters would attack Christians wherever they can be reached.
"We will open upon them the doors of destruction and rivers of blood," the insurgent group said in a statement posted late Tuesday on militant websites.
The Islamic State of Iraq is an umbrella group that includes al-Qaida in Iraq and other allied Sunni insurgent factions.
It is unclear exactly what led the group to seize on the conversion disputes between Egypt's Muslims and its minority Christians, although the issue has become a rallying point for hard-line Islamists in Egypt.
In announcing its reasons for Sunday's attack, the group said it had given the Coptic Church 48 hours to release the women it says had converted to Islam. The group also demanded the release of al-Qaida-linked prisoners held in Iraq.
"All Christian centers, organizations and institutions, leaders and followers are legitimate targets for the mujahedeen (holy warriors) wherever they can reach them," it said.
The group specifically mentioned two Egyptian women married to Coptic priests it says are being held against their will. The church denies the allegation. Some believe the women converted to Islam to leave their husbands because divorce is banned by the church.
Over the past few years in Egypt, arguments over these kinds of alleged conversions have exacerbated Muslim-Christian tensions already high over issues like the construction of new churches. The two communities generally live in peace, though clashes have taken place.
The Baghdad church siege was the deadliest ever recorded against Iraq's Christians, whose numbers have plummeted since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion as members of the community have fled to other countries to escape the violence.
The death toll in a series of attacks mainly targeting Shiites in Baghdad, meanwhile, rose to 91, according to Iraqi police and hospital officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.
Iraqi state TV aired footage Wednesday of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visiting victims of the blasts in Baghdad's hospitals. The televised trips to civilians wounded in attacks were a first for al-Maliki, who has been struggling to keep his job since his Shiite-dominated alliance was narrowly defeated by the Sunni-backed bloc of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi in the March 7 parliamentary election.
Neither bloc won an outright majority, setting up a fight for allies that has left the government stalemated. There was a glimmer of hope for political progress Wednesday when parliament's acting speaker, Fouad Massoum, called the lawmakers to convene Monday and elect his successor.
However, the acting speaker only has the right to call parliament to session and can't necessarily force all the members to show so it was unclear whether the date would hold or that the announcement signified any progress in the political talks.
Last week, Iraq's highest court ordered the 325 lawmakers back to work after a virtual eight-month recess. The parliament has met only once since the March 7 vote for just 20 minutes to allow more time to choose a new leadership.
Under the constitution, parliament was required to meet within 15 days of final court approval of election results and choose a speaker, then a president. The appointments had to be put off because they are part of the negotiations over the rest of the new leadership — including a prime minister and top Cabinet officials.