BAGHDAD (AP) — Two bombs exploded minutes apart Sunday near buses carrying Christian students in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, killing at least one bystander and injuring around 100 others, a security official said.
Sunni Muslim insurgents have frequently targeted members of Iraq’s Christian minority, especially in Mosul, which is home to a large Christian community. Some extremist Sunnis consider Christians to be nonbelievers and supporters of the Shiite-led government they oppose.
A shop owner in the area was killed in Sunday’s attack, said Abdul-Rahim al-Shammari, head of the provincial council’s security committee. The injured included students and other civilians, he said.
The attack began with a roadside bomb that exploded around 7:30 a.m. and appeared to target buses carrying students to Mosul University. Moments later, a car bomb exploded nearby.
At least 17 people with serious wounds were taken to a hospital in Irbil, in the Kurdish autonomous region, said Dr. Muhsin Shamzi, who works at the hospital.
“Today was terrible and I will not forget it for the rest of my life,” said Wisam Jarji, a student who was wounded in the blast. “Following the explosion, the situation in the bus was chaotic and I could see blood stains and hear screams all over the place.”
The U.S.-based National Council of Churches sent a letter last week to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calling on her to urge Iraqi officials to do more to protect Iraq’s Christian community. The organization said they were particularly worried now as Iraq struggles to seat a government after the March 7 parliamentary elections.
“Our concern is now particularly acute because it is possible that tensions will increase as various political forces continue to vie for power following the recent elections,” the letter said. “We fear that a growing climate of mistrust and animosity will further threaten the fragile Christian community.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s bloc narrowly lost to a coalition led by secular challenger Ayad Allawi, but the prime minister has challenged the results. The ensuing political vacuum has left many observers worried that violence will rise as political battles spill over into the streets.
Associated Press writer Yahya Barzanji in Sulaimaniyah contributed to this report.