Al Qaeda Group Promises Attacks On Iraqi Christians

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Radical Muslims with ties to al Qaeda say Christians in Iraq should be prepared to die.

The group warned Wednesday that all Christians in the Middle East are being considered "legitimate targets" after a two-day deadline expired for Egypt's Coptic church to free women allegedly held for converting to Islam.

"All Christian centers, organizations and institutions, leaders and followers, are legitimate targets for Mujahdeen (holy Muslim warriors) wherever they can reach them," the Islamic State of Iraq said in a statement posted late Tuesday on militant Web sites.

The threat came after the terrorist group attacked a church in Baghdad killing 58 people and wounding at least 80 others.

CBN News Sr. International Correspondent Gary Lane has more on the threat against Christians in Iraq.  Click play for his comments, following George Thomas' report.

Also, read more about Christian's facing extinction in Iraq on Gary Lane's blog, The Global Lane.

Christians there are now asking the government for more protection. But, some Iraqi Christians have dismissed the threats.

"We don't pay heed to such threats. We will remain steadfast," one Christian in the country said.

The al Qaeda-linked group took responsibility for the Oct. 31 attack, calling the church "the dirty den of idolatry."

Gunmen took over a Catholic church in Baghdad, taking the entire congregation hostage.

"Suicide bombers stormed the church. A car bomb exploded here," said eyewitness Birham Sami. "They targeted the innocent people in the church."

The standoff lasted a few hours before Iraqi special forces stormed the church.

"We took a decision to launch a land offensive in addition to airdrop because it was impossible to wait," explained Iraqi defence minister Abdul-Qadr al-Obeidi. "The terrorists were planning to kill a large number of our Christians."

Funeral services were held earlier this week as hundred of Iraqis gathered to mourn.

The attack was one of the deadliest against Iraq's dwindling Christian community, renewing calls for the government there to do more to protect people of faith.

"We want the government to provide security for the Iraqi people," a woman in Iraq said. "We are shocked daily and scared."

Some 800,000 Christians lived in Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion. Now, about 500,000 are left to endure the repeated attacks against the community and its places of worship.

"We have to distance ourselves from everything that makes us migrate," said Cardinal Emmanuel Delly of the Chaldean Church. "And the government should be stronger and more determined to establish security and stability for us all."

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George Thomas

George Thomas

CBN News Sr. Reporter

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