Death Toll Rises Following Iraqi Church Hostage Rescue - World

Death Toll Rises Following Iraqi Church Hostage Rescue

01 November 2010 – Iraqi Christian lawmaker, Younadem Kana, center left, Iraq’s top Catholic prelate, Chaldean Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, center, and Bishop Shlimone Wardoni, center right, are seen outside Our Lady of Deliverance church the morning after its congregation was taken hostage in Baghdad, Iraq, 1 Nov 2010.

Iraqi officials say 52 people, including at least 30 worshipers, are dead following a bloody standoff at a Baghdad Christian church.

Iraqi forces stormed the church late Sunday, hours after militants burst into the building, taking more than 100 people inside hostage.

It is not clear how many people were killed by the militants and how many died during the rescue effort.  Officials said 70 people were wounded.

Survivors say the militants entered with guns firing and immediately killed one of the priests at point-blank range.

A Christian member of Iraq’s parliament Monday told reporters that at least 25 worshipers died due to what he called “the lack of professionalism or haste” in freeing the hostages.  But Defense Minister Abdel Qader al-Obeidi defended the decision to storm the church, saying the gunmen were about to start killing the more than 100 people inside.

Al-Qaida’s Iraq affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Police officials at the scene said between five and seven militants were killed during the rescue operation, and that another eight had been arrested.

They said some of the militants set off suicide vests and threw grenades as Iraqi forces entered the church.

As Iraqis began cleaning up outside the Our Lady of Salvation church in the city’s Karada neighborhood Monday, survivors described of the carnage inside and outside the church.

They said the gunmen set off a car bomb and opened fire before entering the church, and then beat some of the worshipers.

The U.S. military provided air support the rescue operation.  Surveillance video released by the U.S. shows a series of explosions inside the church as Iraqi forces moved in.

Iraqi officials said the violence began earlier Saturday when militants launched an attack on the Baghdad stock exchange, also in the Karada neighborhood.

Officials said the attackers killed two security guards, wounded four others and detonated two bombs before moving to the church.

The Islamic State of Iraq had been demanding the release of fellow militants from prisons in Iraq and in Egypt.

The group called the church “the dirty place of the infidel” and warned of more attacks against Christians.

Source: VOA News