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 CNS Story:

IRAQ-VIOLENCE Feb-23-2006 (410 words) With photos. xxxi

As killings increase, church official says all of Iraq is in danger

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- As killings increased in retribution for the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Iraq, the Rome-based representative of Baghdad's Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate said that "all of Iraq is in danger."

"It's not just about Sunni and Shiite, because they started three weeks ago on Christians," Father Philip Najim told Catholic News Service Feb. 23, referring to the near-simultaneous attacks in late January in Baghdad and Kirkuk, a northern Iraqi city, launched just as some Sunday services had ended.

Father Najim said he believed the people behind the mid-February attacks "came from outside Iraq and they (coalition forces) are doing nothing about it." He said that as an Iraqi, he could assure people "100 percent that no Iraqi man would ever do this. Not a Sunni, not a Shiite."

The people behind the mid-February attacks "want to create division and chaos. They want to stop the process of a new political situation" of democracy and peace, Father Najim said, adding that he did not understand what U.S. and British forces were doing to help keep order.

"Before we can talk about a constitution and democracy, we have to bring stability and unity," he said. "Instead, there is Iraq being divided and creating different camps. Each group is like a country in itself" with its own leader, people and army.

Gunmen shot dead 47 civilians during a protest against the bombing of a sacred Shiite shrine known as the Golden Mosque in Samarra, north of Baghdad. By Feb. 23, more than 110 people were believed killed in the previous two days; many were shot execution-style, The Associated Press reported Feb. 23.

Such attacks against religious places of worship have "never happened in the whole history of Iraq; never (was) sectarian strife" caused by the Iraqi people themselves, Father Najim said.

The terrorists "want to take advantage of the situation, and they know that the most sensitive thing is people's religious sentiments" so they aim at religious places, Father Najim said.

"Our history has been destroyed, our archeology has been destroyed, our culture is being destroyed and our sovereignty has been taken away. The only things left are money from oil and our people," and terrorists were trying to control those by creating chaos, he said.

- - -

Contributing to this story was Regina Linskey in Washington.


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