IRAQI ATTACKS ON CHRISTIANS CONTINUE

Gunmen killed a Christian businessman and wounded his nephew in a drive-by shooting in Mosul, police said Monday.

The shooting occurred Sunday night while the pair was standing near their house in the Kazraj neighborhood, Mosul police said.

It came on the same day that Iraq’s president and prime minister condemned recent attacks targeted at Christians in the northern Iraq city.

Thirteen Christians have been slain in the past two weeks in the city, which is located about 420 kilometers (260 miles) north of Baghdad.

At least 900 Christian families have fled in recent days, reportedly frightened by a series of killings and threats by Muslim extremists ordering them to convert to Islam or face possible death, Iraqi officials said.

In response to the attacks, Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul Qader al-Obaidi ordered more checkpoints in Christian neighborhoods, additional security patrols and more aerial surveillance of Christian areas.

The attacks may have been prompted by Christian demonstrations ahead of provincial elections, which are to be held by January 31, 2009, authorities said.

Hundreds of Christians took to the streets in Mosul and surrounding villages and towns, demanding adequate representation on provincial councils, whose members will be chosen in the local elections.

President Jalal Talabani met with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker on Sunday to discuss security, and Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi held a press conference with a group of local priests and bishops.

“The state, its security services and armed forces must take one stand so they can do their part in these conditions and protect our Christian brothers because they are our partners in rebuilding this nation,” al-Hashemi said.

Meanwhile a roadside bomb struck an Iraqi police patrol in northeastern Baghdad Monday, wounding five people, the Interior Ministry said.

The blast took place in the Ur district about 9 a.m., a ministry official said. Among the wounded were three police officers.

The attack came after several deaths in the Iraqi capital Sunday.

A car bomb detonated in an outdoor market in the Shiite neighborhood of Bayaa, southwestern Baghdad, killing nine civilians and wounding 13 others, an Interior Ministry official said.

Sniper fire killed two Iraqi soldiers in the Mansour neighborhood, a ministry official said.

Two members of the Sons of Iraq — a group of former Sunni insurgents who have turned against al Qaeda in Iraq — were killed in Dora, southern Baghdad.

And in Zaiyouna, eastern Baghdad, a roadside bomb injured seven people, including five police officers, the official added.

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