Christians attacked ahead of Iraq election

Feb. 26, 2010 at 12:46 PM

MOSUL, Iraq, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Attacks on the Christian community in northern Iraq are an effort to destabilize the region ahead of parliamentary elections, officials said.

The Christian community in northern Iraq was the target of a spate of attacks in 2008. Violence against Christians forced nearly half of that population to flee the area, the U.N. said.

Three Christian family members were killed Tuesday in Mosul when militants stormed their house. Christians leaders complained they were made to feel unwelcome in an area they consider their historic homeland.

Osama al-Nujaifi, the provincial governor of Ninawa, told the Iraqi analytical Web site Niqash that he called on army commanders to "shoulder their responsibilities for protecting the Christian community and disclosing the results of the criminal investigations regarding the crimes committed against them."

Area residents told Niqash the Christian community is often the target of attacks before Iraqis head to the polls, noting the latest outbreak of violence is an act of intimidation.

Iraqis pick their next government March 7 amid a contentious political environment. An election committee in January banned several influential Sunni leaders from taking part in the polls because of alleged ties to the outlawed Baath Party of Saddam Hussein.

Baghdad on Friday, however, announced it was rehiring thousands of army officers who served under Saddam.

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