Iraq At two Christian homes, the gunmen used the same methods: point-blank fire that claimed three lives in a 30-minute span. The attacks left another outpost of Iraq’s dwindling Christian community frightened Monday that it could become caught in the struggles over disputed Kirkuk.
The motives behind the late Sunday attacks remained unclear, with suspicions mostly falling on Sunni insurgents linked to al-Qaida in Iraq.
But fear of reprisals and worries about vulnerability have become common themes for members of one of the world’s oldest Christian homelands.
Iraq’s Christians, who numbered about 1 million in the early 1980s, are now estimated at about half that as families flee warfare and extremist attacks that target their churches and homes.
The future of Kirkuk — an ethnic patchwork led by Kurds and Arabs — has become one of the most politically sensitive issues for Iraqi leaders and for U.S. military commanders preparing to withdraw their troops by the end of 2011.