Death Toll Rises in Baghdad Church Siege

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At least 52 people died when Iraqi security forces stormed a church in Baghdad to free hostages held by Islamic militants, officials said Monday.

U.S. and Iraqi officials said worshippers at Our Lady of Deliverance Catholic Church were listening to a Bible reading when gunmen burst in to the sanctuary and started shooting.
The militants, wearing suicide vests and armed with grenades, took 120 people hostage.  Authorities believed the attackers to be part of the terror organization al Qaeda in Iraq.
After a four-hour standoff, Iraqi forces backed by the U.S. military stormed the church building. Ten policemen were among the dead, and many of the 62 wounded were women.

Abu Sami, whose wife was inside the church at the time of the attack, said he feared a new round of violence against Iraq's Christian community.

"I expect the coming attacks will be worse in the future since the government is doing nothing to protect us. We are peaceful people and never harmed any of our fellow countrymen, so we do not understand the reasons behind such evil attacks," he said.

"Many Christians now believe that they do not have any hope in Iraq and the best thing to survive is to seek another country to live in," he said.

Iraq's Christians have been target by Islamic extremists since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. So far, more than 500,000 Christians have fled the country.

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