A wave of bomb attacks in Iraq's capital has killed two Christians and wounded 16, further stoking fears in a community already terrified after a massacre at a church there two months ago.
Fifteen bombs were placed at different Christian homes late on yesterday, an interior ministry official said today.
"Two Christians were killed and 16 wounded" by the 11 bombs that went off, while security forces carried out controlled detonations of the other four, the official said.
The only deadly attack killed Fawzi Ibrahim, 80, and his wife Janet in Al-Ghadir in central Baghdad, where a number of Christians reside.
The couple had lived in the house with another family of Chaldean Catholics, said a neighbour, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"At about 7:00 pm (1600 GMT), they found a bag placed at the gate. One of the residents of the house thought it belonged to Mrs Ibrahim, but when she opened it with her husband, a bomb hidden inside exploded," said the neighbour.
The explosion killed the couple and wounded three other Ibrahim family members.
"The couple had lived here for 40 years, and all the residents of the area loved them," the neighbour said.
Thirty minutes later another bomb exploded in Al-Ghadir under Zaher Sami Dawood's car, which was parked outside the house where he lives with his parents.
Shrapnel punched through the roof of the car, but a wall around the family's house shielded it and its occupants.
"We never intended to flee, but since yesterday, we are afraid," said Zaher's mother Amira, with tears in her eyes.
"We have nowhere to go, but we cannot stay here," she said.
Most of the bombs, which targeted Christian homes in seven different parts of the city, were in the central district of Karrada, the interior ministry official said.
Three devices wounded three Christians there, and all four of the controlled detonations were also in Karrada.
Another bomb targeted a house in Al-Ilam neighbourhood in southern Baghdad, wounding one person, two bombs wounded four people in Dora, south of the city, and one bomb in Saidiya, also in the south, wounded two people.
Another device targeted a Christian home in Yarmuk in western Baghdad, wounding one. A house in Khadra, also in the west of the city, was targeted by a bomb that wounded two people.
"It's a mess. It shows the incapability of the government to restore security," said Father Yousef Thomas Mirkis, the head of the Dominican order in Iraq.
"It is very difficult to understand why people attack the Christians, because we do not have any political power and we are not a threat," he said.
Father Saad Sirop Hanna, the head priest at a Chaldean Catholic church in central Baghdad, said "the purpose of these attacks is to threaten the Christians and force them to flee from Iraq."
The US embassy in Baghdad denounced the bombings.
"We condemn the attacks," said embassy spokesman David Ranz.
The bombings came almost two months to the day after an October 31 attack by militants on Our Lady of Salvation church in central Baghdad, which left the 44 worshippers, two priests and seven security forces members dead.
Al-Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq, claimed responsibility for the attack and made new threats against Christians.
It said the attack was to force the release of two women in Egypt who had allegedly converted to Islam and who they said were being held hostage by the Coptic Church there.
Ten days after the church massacre, a string of bomb and mortar attacks targeting the homes of Christians in Baghdad killed six people and wounded 33 others.
On December 21, Chaldean Catholic archbishop Monsignor Louis Sarko said in Kirkuk that he "and 10 other Christian personages received threats from the so-called Islamic State of Iraq."
On Christmas Day, both the speaker of parliament, Osama al-Nujaifi, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki urged Christians, hundreds of thousands of whom have fled abroad amid unrest since the 2003 US-led invasion, to stay in Iraq.
"Iraqis don't want the sound of the (church) bells to stop," Nujaifi said.
And Maliki said: "We strongly call on (Christians) to stay in their country, to commit to their country and participate in building and reconstructing it."