U.S. combat forces pulled back to their military bases June 30 under the terms of a bilateral security pact with Baghdad. Violence in Iraq surged in the period surrounding the deadline, seen most recently in attacks on the Christian minority.
A series of attacks rocked the country Sunday, targeting Christian facilities in Baghdad and further north in Mosul. At least five were killed and more than 20 others were injured.
"These attacks on (July 12) mean that there are well-organized militant groups who are still active unleashing violence and terrorism against Iraqis in general and Christians specifically," Younadem Kana, a Christian Iraqi MP, told the U.N. humanitarian news agency IRIN.
Attacks on the Christian minority are not uncommon in Iraq, specifically in the north of the country where much of their population is centered. A spate of targeted attacks on the Christian community in Iraq in late 2008 displaced roughly half of the religious minority to neighboring Syria.
In a statement to church leaders in Baghdad, Pope Benedict XVI said he would pray "for a conversion of heart in the authors of this violence, and encourages the authorities to do everything possible to promote just and peaceful coexistence among all sectors of the Iraqi population."