Baghdad bombings kill 27; Christians flee Mosul under threat of death
BAGHDAD — A series of bombings, including three over a span of less than 10 minutes, killed at least 27 people across Baghdad on Saturday, shaking the fragile sense of security the capital has maintained despite the Sunni militant offensive raging across northern and western Iraq.
The deadliest bombing took place in the Shiite neighborhood of Abu Dashir, where a suicide attacker rammed a car packed with explosives into a checkpoint, killing at least nine people and wounding 19, officials said. Four policemen were among the dead, a police officer said.
The attacks in Baghdad are among the most significant in the capital since Sunni terrorists led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria captured Iraq's second-largest city Mosul last month at the start of its blitz. After Mosul's fall, the government moved aggressively to try to secure Baghdad amid fears it might fall as well.
In Mosul on Saturday, the terrorists sent a message over loudspeakers, giving Christians until midday to make a choice: convert to Islam, pay a tax or die.
By the time the deadline expired, the vast majority of Christians in Mosul had made their decision: none of the above.
Instead, they fled.
They clambered into cars — children, parents, grandparents — and headed for the largely autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq or other areas protected by the Kurdish security forces. Their departure marks the latest — and perhaps final — exodus of Christians from the city, emptying out communities that date back to the first centuries of Christianity, including Chaldean, Assyrian and Armenian churches.
Meanwhile, Iraqi military spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi denied reports that militants had captured a former American military facility known as Camp Speicher. Heavy fighting has raged around the air field northwest of Tikrit, and al-Moussawi said government troops repelled an attack on Friday and that the base remains under government control.
A resident of Tikrit, Ahmed Jassim, said by telephone that clashes were taking place around Speicher on Saturday, but “the gunmen are outside the camp.” The center of Tikrit is under insurgent control and is being shelled by the Iraqi military, he said.
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