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Governments, Catholic archbishop decry attacks on Iraqi Christians

From Jomana Karadsheh, CNN
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Dramatic video from inside earlier church attack
  • NEW: U.S., United Nations condemn violence
  • Attacks again Christians in Iraq have accelerated
  • An attack on a Christian church last month killed at least 70

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- The United States, the U.N. Security Council and an American Catholic archbishop expressed concern Wednesday about continuing attacks on Christian and other religious groups in Iraq.

At least three people were killed and 25 wounded Wednesday morning, an Iraqi interior ministry official said.

The roadside bombs and mortar fire targeted Christian homes in several Baghdad neighborhoods, the official said.

On Tuesday evening, three people were wounded in western Baghdad when bombs exploded outside Christian homes there, the ministry said.

It was not clear if the injured were Christian residents or others on the street.

The latest attacks came as 35 Christian survivors of a chilling church attack last month arrived in France, where they will be able to seek asylum.

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"The United States strongly condemns the recent terrorist attacks in Iraq, which were perpetrated by al Qaeda in Iraq against Christians in Baghdad in their homes and in their churches," said Mike Hammer, spokesman for the White House's National Security Council. "We also strongly condemn additional attacks against innocent civilians throughout Iraq, to include pilgrims in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala."

The U.N. Security Council also decried attacks on places of worship in Iraq.

The archbishop of Chicago, Illinois, urged U.S. President Barack Obama to take steps to protect Christians in Iraq.

"Having invaded Iraq, our nation has a moral obligation not to abandon those Iraqis who cannot defend themselves," wrote Cardinal Francis George of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

A group called the Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for the gruesome October 31 siege of the Sayidat al-Nejat cathedral that left 70 people dead and 75 wounded. The umbrella group includes a number of Sunni extremist organizations and has ties to al Qaeda in Iraq.

Worshippers at the church were about to begin Sunday night services when gunmen entered the church, according to Martin Chulov, a journalist for Britain's Guardian newspaper, who was at the scene.

As many as 120 people were taken hostage, said Lt. Col. Eric Bloom, a U.S. military spokesman. The gunmen held them for hours before security forces stormed in to end the standoff, arresting eight suspects.

The Christian people should leave their beloved land of our ancestors and escape the premeditated ethnic cleansing.
--Archbishop Athanasios Dawood
  • Iraq
  • Al Qaeda in Iraq

Most of the hostages were killed or wounded when the attackers set off explosives inside the church, Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul Qader Obeidi said.

At least two of the attackers were wearing explosive vests, which they detonated just minutes before security forces raided the church, police officials said.

The gunmen were demanding that the Iraqi government release a number of detainees and prisoners in Iraqi prisons, saying the Christian hostages would be freed in return, according to the police officials.

Iraq's defense minister later said on state television that the kidnappers had demanded the release of a number of prisoners in both Iraq and Egypt.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report.