Christian Business Man Killed in Mosul

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Iraqi police say gunmen killed a Christian music store owner and wounded one of his family members Sunday night in Mosul.

One of the police officers in the area's operations center told the Associated Press that the shooters broke into the businessman's store late Sunday. He told the reporter that the gunmen shot the man to death and wounded his teenage nephew.

The attack came on the same day as Iraq's president and prime minister denounced the recent violence in the northern city against Christians.

The Iraqi government also announced that the national security council had formed a committee to investigate the attacks. A spokesman assured "Christians of the government's commitment to their security and protection."

President Jalal Talabani met with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker on Sunday to discuss security, and Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi held a press conference with a group of local priests and bishops.

"The state, its security services and armed forces must take one stand so they can do their part in these conditions and protect our Christian brothers, because they are our partners in rebuilding this nation," al-Hashemi said.

Thirteen Christians Killed in Last Two Weeks

The incident is the latest in a series of slayings that have prompted thousands of Christians to flee Mosul. Thirteen Christians have been reported killed in the past two weeks in a city that's located about 260 miles north of Baghdad.

U.N. special representative Staffan de Mistura expressed concern "at the spike in violence that has targeted the Christian communities." He warned the attacks were an effort to "fuel tensions and exacerbate instability at a critical time."

Violence still continues in the area in spite of joint U.S.-Iraqi military operations launched more than four months ago aimed at routing out insurgents from Mosul. The city had been called al-Qaeda in Iraq's last urban stronghold by the U.S. military command.

Christians Want Representation in Parliament

Christian leaders are also petitioning parliament to pass a law setting aside a number of seats for them and other minorities in upcoming provincial elections. They believe they could be made second-class citizens by their social standing in the predominantly Muslim country.

The elections are to be held on January 31, 2009, Iraqi authorities said.

Islamic extremists have continued to target Christians since the 2003 U.S. invasion. Iraqi officials said tens of thousands have been forced to flee the country with Muslim extremists threatening them to convert to Islam or die.

The senior migration and displacement official in Mosul reported that 1,092 families have fled the city, mostly leaving for churches, monasteries and the homes of relatives in nearby towns.

But the U.N. envoy said just over 500 families were being assisted in the area, adding that many of the newly displaced Christians had originally fled to Mosul to escape violence in Baghdad.

In response to the attacks, Iraq's Defense Minister Abdul Qader al-Obaidi ordered more checkpoints in Christian neighborhoods, additional security patrols and more aerial surveillance of Christian areas.

Sources: The Associated Press, CNN.com

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