A six-year-old girl and her Christian father were killed in a northern city in Iraq Tuesday, joining the dozens of believers that have been targeted by Muslim extremists in recent weeks.
The two were killed by a car bomb explosion in Mosul, which has a large Assyrian Christian population, local police said, according to CNN. Just the night before, gunmen barged into a home also in Mosul and killed two Christian men in their living room.
This week’s attacks only further confirm to Assyrian Christians that they are not safe in Iraq, not even in their own living room. On Oct. 31, gunmen orchestrated the most deadly attack against the Assyrian Christian community since Islamic extremists began targeting them in 2003. A total of 68 people, according to the latest figure, were killed during the massacre at Our Lady of Salvation, Baghdad’s main Catholic Church. Among those that died were three Catholic priests, with one passing away at the hospital.
Less than two weeks later, extremists killed five more people in Baghdad’s Christian neighborhoods.
Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group for Sunni Islamic insurgent groups that include al-Qaida, has claimed responsibility for the Oct. 31 and the Nov. 10 attacks.
The militant group has called on Muslims to open the “doors of destruction and rivers of blood” on Christians in Iraq.
“All Christian centers, organizations and institutions, leaders and followers are legitimate targets for the muhajedeen (holy warriors) wherever they can reach them,” Islamic State of Iraq wrote in a statement posted on militant websites two weeks ago.
The violence is nothing new to Assyrian Christians living in Mosul. Earlier this year, hundreds of Assyrian Christians in Mosul fled the city after ten believers were gunned down in less than two weeks. Among the deaths was an entire family of five that included an Assyrian Catholic priest Mazin Ishoo, who lived with his parents and brothers.
Similarly in 2008, the murder of six Christians in less than a week, including three men within 24 hours, led to the exodus of more than 15,000 Christians over the period of two weeks in Mosul.
“[T]errorists have started to kill the Christians in their houses in many different places of the city. My family and I are very stressed and afraid,” said an Open Doors contact (not identified for security reasons) in Baghdad after the Nov. 10 bombing. “Why is there no real safe place in Baghdad? … My family has lived here for ages and now I am forced to escape? What is this kind of world?”
There are only about 600,000 Christians in Iraq now, down from about 1.2 million before the U.S-led invasion in 2003.