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Middle East

Christmas Day bombings in Baghdad kill 37 

The attacks bring the number of people killed so far in Iraq this month to 441

Christians in Iraq have been targeted by militants in three separate Christmas Day bombings in Baghdad, killing at least 37 people.

In one attack, a car bomb detonated near a church in the capital's southern Dora neighborhood, killing at least 26 people, mostly Christian, and wounding 38, a police officer confirmed.

In a separate attack earlier today, two bombs tore through a nearby outdoor market simultaneously in the Christian section of Athorien, killing 11 people and wounding 21, the officer said.

A medical official speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed the casualty figures.

The Iraq-based leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Louis Sako, said the parked car bomb exploded after Christmas Mass but none of the worshippers were hurt. He said he did not believe the church was the target.

The Christmas Day attacks increased the total number of people killed so far in attacks this month in Iraq to 441. More than 8,000 people have been killed since the start of the year, according to estimates by the United Nations.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, but Iraq's dwindling Christian community, which is estimated to number about 400,000 to 600,000 people, often has been targeted by al-Qaida and other insurgents who see the Christians as heretics.

Along with Christians, other targets include civilians in restaurants, cafes or crowded public areas, as well as Shiites and members of the Iraqi security forces, attacked in an attempt to undermine confidence in the Shiite-led government and stir up Iraq's already simmering sectarian tensions. 

The bombings today came amid a massive military operation in Iraq's western desert as authorities are attempting to track down insurgents who have stepped up attacks across Iraq in the past months, sending violence to levels not seen since 2008. 

Additional reporting by Associated Press