This is an update on this story:
At least 10 Christian worshippers were killed and about thirty wounded tonight, when Iraqi security forces stormed a Baghdad church in which terrorists wearing explosive vests were holding them hostage.
The raid also killed seven Iraqi soldiers and police officers. The violence erupted just after 9pm, almost four hours after a group of between six and eight gunmen wearing military uniforms stormed Our Lady of Salvation Chaldean Catholic church in the inner-city suburb of Karrada.
Worshippers caught up in the carnage described their ordeal to the Guardian as they fled the church. They said the terrorist attack was heralded by a car bomb outside the fortified church gate at 5:30pm. The two priests, who were about to begin mass ushered at least half of their 120-strong congregation to a small room in the back of the ornate building, in a bid to protect them.
“After a while one of the terrorists opened the door and threw in a bomb,” said a man who identified himself as Bassam. “There were injuries. They killed people, they injured people,” he said, before collapsing on the road outside the church. “Where is our father?” he screamed,” referring to his priest. “Where is our father?“
For the next four hours, the terrified congregation cowered inside the room. The streets of central Karrada were shut down and darkened, with only flares from circling helicopters illuminating a pitch black sky. As the Iraqi forces closed in, militants inside the church threw sound grenades and detonated several larger bombs.
Local television station, Al-Baghdadia reported that one of the gunmen had called the network in the early stages of the seige, identifying himself as a member of an al-Qaida-aligned group, the Islamic State of Iraq. He demanded the release of prisoners in Iraq and Egypt.
Horrible. Absolutely horrible.
Tomorrow is All Saints’ Day, where Catholics celebrate people who have died in a state of grace. This people merit a prayer for them, as they have died, as true martyrs, just because of their faith.
This, of course, is going to have terrible consequences for Catholics in Iraq. Their exodus has been already great. After this, unhappily for Iraq, it is going to rise. I would call on international organizations and Western states to support this people, although I doubt they are going to do something for them. By the way, I hope the Pope does something on that direction too.
UPDATE: 37 killed, according to BBC reports. There are conflictive reports on the death toll.