Iraqi policemen stand guard outside Virgin Mary Church, as worshippers leave after Christmas Day Mass in Baghdad, Iraq on December 25, 2008. Christmas Day was declared an official holiday in Iraq for the first time in 2008. (UPI Photo/Ali Jasim) | License Photo
WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- Washington said it was confident the Iraqi government would take the steps necessary to ensure the minority Christian community gets the protection it deserves.
A vehicle filled with explosives detonated Tuesday in front of a Christian church in Kirkuk, Iraq, injuring at least 20 people.
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 injured.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a statement, said attacks on the Christian community in Iraq shows the depths to which "certain terrorist groups" will go to disrupt Iraq's fragile peace.
"We are confident the government of Iraq will take all necessary steps to bring the people responsible for this horrific act to justice and continue its efforts to improve the security situation for all Iraqis, including those whose communities are threatened on the basis of their faith and beliefs," she said.
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.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said that "Italy is committed to helping the Catholic community stay there."