Updated at 11:53 p.m. EST, Dec. 23, 2009
Attacks targeting Christians and Shi’ites left dozens dead or wounded in the days leading to important holidays for both groups. Christmas occurs on Friday, while Ashura begins at sunset on Saturday. At least 23 Iraqis were killed and 67 more were wounded across the country in these and other attacks. Also, Iran is apparently occupying two different oil wells in the Fakka field.
During Ashura, Shi’ite Muslims commemorate the seventh-century death and martydom of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Imam Hussein. Many pilgrims mark the holiday by traveling to Karbala, making them easy pray for gunmen and bombers. Christians will celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ on Friday. Christmas is usually marked by church services and family gatherings; however, many Christians will tone down the festivities due to the proximity to the solemn Ashura observances.
Overseas, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has promised to testify in the Chilcot Inquiry but not before national elections in 2010. In the Netherlands, 14 Iraqi Kurds are suing a Dutchman who was convicted of selling chemicals that Saddam Hussein weaponized and used on Kurdish citizens
In Baghdad, an explosion targeting Ashura pilgrims in the Mashtal neighborhood killed four people and wounded 31 others. One person was killed and four more were injured during a blast in Karrada. Another Ashura-related blast occurred at a mourning tent in Ilam, where two were killed and eight more were wounded. A bomb affixed to a bus in Kadhimiya killed one person and wounded three others. Gunmen killed a brigadier general at him home in Ghazaliya. A suicide bomber and his wife were arrested in Jamiaa. Last night, a bomb in a southeastern neighborhood wounded one person.
In Mosul, a bomb targeting a 1200-year-old church killed three people and wounded five others. At least two of those killed were Muslim, and the attack was followed by more threats. The extent of damage is unknown, but it will mean no Christmas services for parishioners. Gunmen also killed a retired army officer in an unrelated incident.
Four police officers were killed when gunmen stormed a checkpoint just west of Baghdad in Abu Ghraib. Three civilians were wounded in a separate mortar attack that took place at a market. More bombs were discovered.
In Fallujah, a Sunni leader was killed and two bodyguards were wounded in magnetic bomb attack. A civilian was killed when a roadside bomb blew up. A bomb targeting a sheikh wounded a bodyguard instead. A university professor was saved before a bomb planted on his car could explode. Gunmen partially destroyed a policeman’s home
A blast at a mourning tent in Mahmoudiya left one pilgrim dead and five more wounded.
A body belonging to a Furat TV employee was discovered in Basra, where news of attacks does not often reach the mass media. Separately, 15 suspects were arrested across the province.
Late in the evening in Kirkuk, a bomb wounded an army officer. Also, a bomb was defused.
Two Sahwa fighters were killed at their checkpoint near Baquba.
An explosion yesterday in Tarmiyah wounded three people.
Dhi Qar province has imposed a strict security plan for Ashura.
Oil employees were among that 30 people that joint forces arrested in Baiji.