Qaida claims responsibility for Sunday's Baghdad church attack
Al-Qaida militant group in Iraq Monday claimed responsibility for a Baghdad church attack that killed 37 people and wounded 56 others, most of them Christian worshippers who were taken hostages by the attackers, Xinhua reported.
The self-styled Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), the al-Qaida front in Iraq, said in a statement posted on an Islamic website that a group of Qaida suicide bombers blew up a booby-trapped car and several bombs near the Iraqi security forces in the area as they were storming the church during the Sunday Mass.
The attackers who wore explosive vests demanded the release of women who converted to Islam but were allegedly detained by churches in Egypt, the statement said.
The Qaida militants wanted to exchange the Christian hostages in Baghdad church for the women detained in Egyptian churches, but the Iraqi security stormed the church prompting the Qaida fighters to blew themselves up, killing dozens of hostages and security members, the statement added.
The statement also warned that Sunday's attack was just a beginning for more attacks against Iraqi Christians.
The authenticity of the statement could not be verified immediately.
The attack occurred at sunset when gunmen in explosive vests and armed with grenades and assault rifles detonated a car bomb near the Iraqi security forces and attacked a nearby stock market. They then entered the nearby church of Lady of Deliverance, or Saidat al-Najat in Arabic, in Baghdad's Karrada district and held about 100 hostages.
Later in the evening, Iraqi security forces stormed the church and freed the hostages, ending the standoff.
An Iraqi Interior Ministry source said that a total of 37 people were killed, including seven security members and five gunmen, while 56 were wounded including 15 security members. The rest were mostly women and children hostages.
He also said that eight suspects were captured at the scene for interrogation.
Violence and sporadic high-profile attacks are still common in Iraqi cities as part of recent deterioration in security which shaped a setback to the efforts of the Iraqi government to restore normalcy in the country after violence-torn Iraq held parliamentary elections about eight months ago.