BAGHDAD, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Iraqi Christians are leaving the country in large numbers following a deadly October attack on a church in Baghdad, advocates say.
Violence targeting the Iraqi Christian population, traditionally based in the north, displaced as much as half of the ethnic minority community in 2008. An al-Qaida attack on a Christian church in Baghdad in October killed at least 60 people and left nearly 100 severely injured.
Abdullah al-Nawfa, a leader of a Christian endowment fund in Iraq, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that the rate of Iraq Christians fleeing the country doubled in November and increased again in December after the attacks.
Catholic leaders in Baghdad, meanwhile, said that despite pledges from top Iraqi government officials that security would improve, Christians are afraid and are leaving the country.
There were around 1.4 million Christians living in Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Conservative estimates report half that number still lives in the country.
Arab leaders have said Christians are equal members of society in the region and deserve equal protection.