Iraq's Qaida says Christians "legitimate targets"
Al-Qaida militant group in Iraq Wednesday said that Christians and their organizations have become "legitimate targets" after a two-day deadline expired for Egypt's Coptic church to free some women allegedly held due to converting to Islam, 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 it "declares all Christian centers, organizations and institutions, leaders and followers, are legitimate targets for Mujahdeen (holy Muslim warriors) wherever they can reach them."
"The killing sword will not be lifted from the necks of the ( Vatican leaders) and their followers until they declare their innocence from what the Egyptian Church is doing," the ISI said in its statement.
The statement said that Qaida's threat came after the church of Egypt failed to release or clarify the status of women said to be converted to Islam and have been held captive in monasteries.
On Sunday, gunmen wearing explosive vests and armed with grenades and assault rifles detonated a car bomb near the Iraqi security forces and attacked the church in Karrada, holding some 100 hostages inside.
About three hours later, Iraqi security forces stormed the church and freed the hostages after fierce fighting with the gunmen, killing 58 people, most of them hostages, including two priests, and wounding 75 others.
On Monday, al-Qaida group in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement and warned that Sunday's assault was just the beginning for more attacks against Iraqi Christians.
The holding of dozens of Christians in the Baghdad church was aiming at exchanging the women allegedly detained in Egypt's churches, according to Qaida statement.