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Trenches to protect Iraqi Christians

  |   July 24, 2009 at 11:51 AM
BAGHDAD, July 24 (UPI) -- Iraqi security officials have taken steps to protect the Christian minority population in the north of the country by erecting trenches around their community.

A spate of targeted attacks on the minority religious group in Iraq in late 2008 displaced roughly half of the religious minority to neighboring Syria.

Those incidents resurfaced in the period surrounding the U.S. troop drawdown in June, with attacks in Mosul and Baghdad killing at least five and injuring 20 others in recent weeks.

Abdul Raheem al-Shimari, the head of the provincial security and defense committee, said security teams have dug trenches around the towns of Talkaif and Hamdaniya in order to protect the Christian population, the U.N. humanitarian news agency IRIN reports.

Shimari said the trenches are roughly 1.5 feet deep and are intended to prevent potential car bombers from getting through without the necessary security checks.

Iraqi Maj. Gen. Ahmed Abu Righeef, a deputy interior minister, noted the government issued orders to set up a committee to examine ways to better protect the Christian population in Iraq.

"The interior minister has been ordered to set up a committee to supervise and follow up the protection of churches and other Christian worship places in Baghdad and other provinces," he said.

Baghdad had considered protective trenches in 2006 as the country teetered on the edge of civil war, but those plans were abandoned in favor of increased military activity.

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