14 dead as Iraqi militants target Catholic church

At least seven hostages and seven members of the Iraqi security forces were killed when Islamic militants took 120 people hostage in a Catholic church. A four-hour siege was ended when security forces stormed the church in Baghdad while the terrorists were still on the telephone to the authorities demanding the release of prisoners.

Five or more of the militants, who are believed to be linked to an al-Qa'ida group based in Iraq, were killed when security forces ended the stand-off. The siege had started when the terrorists ran into the church after attacking the Iraqi stock exchange with guns and grenades. An estimated 30 hostages, including a priest and a nun, were injured. Worshippers had been listening to a Bible reading when the militants took over the church.

Marzina Matti Yalda was inside when the attack started and said: "As we went outside the hall to see what was happening, gunmen stormed the main gate and they started to shoot at us. Many people fell down, including a priest, while some of us ran inside and took shelter in a locked room as we waited for the security forces to arrive."

Iraqi Christians have been frequent targets for insurgents and many have fled the country since 2003. There are now 870,000 Christians, most of them Catholics, living in Iraq today.

Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Bloom, of the US Army, said at the militants wore suicide vests and that least 19 people died, but some Iraqi sources put the death toll at up to 37. Baghdad military spokesman Major-General Qassim al-Moussawi said security forces killed eight attackers.

A senior Iraqi intelligence official said the insurgents had demanded the release of women prisoners linked to al-Qa'ida in Iraq, including an Egyptian woman. Al-Baghdadia television station said it had received a phone call from someone claiming to be one of the attackers, who demanded the release of all al-Qa'ida members held in Iraq and Egypt. The caller said the attackers belonged to the Islamic State of Iraq.

A message later posted on the group's website claimed it would "exterminate Iraqi Christians" if Muslim women were not freed within 48 hours from ministries and churches run by the Christian Coptic church in Egypt.

Our Lady of Salvation, one of Baghdad's largest churches, was one of five churches in Baghdad and Mosul hit in co-ordinated attacks in August 2004 in which 12 people were killed.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own