Dozens killed in series of attacks across Baghdad

Rapid-fire bombings and mortar strikes killed 62 people and wounded 180 across Baghdad's mostly Shiite neighbourhoods yesterday night, calling into question the ability of Iraqi security forces to protect the capital.

The blasts came just two days after gunmen in Baghdad held a Christian congregation hostage in a siege in which 58 people died.

The bombings began just after 6pm and took place in at least 10 neighbourhoods, involving booby-trapped cars, roadside bombs and mortar strikes. The attacks appeared directed mostly at the city's majority Shiite population, though some blasts occurred in Sunni neighbourhoods as well.

The most deadly blast happened when a parked car bomb exploded near a market in the Sadr City slum in eastern Baghdad, home to roughly two million Shiites. That attack killed 15 people and wounded 23.

Earlier yesterday, hundreds of grieving Christians and other Iraqis packed a funeral service for members of the faith killed in the militant siege on the Baghdad church. The attack was claimed by a group linked to al-Qa'ida.

The gunmen attacked Sunday evening parishioners who were celebrating Mass at Our Lady of Salvation church in an affluent part of Baghdad, emphasising the ease with which militants can still strike in Iraq and the dangerous position the country's Christians occupy in Iraq's sectarian structure.

Iraq's top Catholic prelate, Chaldean Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, urged the government to protect the nation's Christian community and not let their promises just be ink on paper.

"We are gathered here in this sacred house to say farewell to our brothers who were just the day before yesterday exclaiming love and peace," Delly told the congregation at the Chaldean St Joseph Church in central Baghdad. "Now fate has decided that they will leave us."

Seven coffins draped in Iraqi flags and covered with flowers were carried to the altar, where notables in the Christian community were gathered. Two of the dead were priests – at least one of whom was executed on the floor of the church by the militants almost as soon as the siege began.

One of the officials read a letter from Pope Benedict XVI to the crowd. "For years the violence hasn't stopped hitting this country, and Christians are becoming the target of these cruel terrorist attacks," the letter read.

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