A car bomb exploded near a church as worshippers left Sunday Mass, killing at least four civilians and injuring 18 in one of several attacks on Iraq’s beleaguered Christian minority.
The coordinated assault came as the Iraqi military predicted that insurgent attacks, though declining, could continue for a few years, raising the prospect of militant violence after the scheduled withdrawal of all US troops by the end of 2011.
Three Christians and one Muslim died in the bombing at about 7pm near a church on Palestine Street in eastern Baghdad, said a police officer who was at the scene. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
An official at al-Kindi hospital confirmed the death toll and said at least 18 people were injured.
Also on Sunday, a bomb exploded near a convoy of US personnel that included US Ambassador Christopher Hill, though no one was injured.
US State Department spokeswoman Joanne Moore said the bomb exploded as the convoy was traveling through Dhi Qar Province in southern Iraq.
Violence is sharply down in the war that began with the US-led invasion in 2003, but militants still carry out lethal attacks on a regular basis, some seemingly aimed at fomenting sectarian tension.
The US military completed a withdrawal of combat forces from Iraqi cities to outlying bases last month as to let Iraq take the lead on ensuring its own security.
General Babaker Shawkat Zebari, the Iraqi army chief of staff, said insurgents once held sway in cities and provinces, but had been whittled down to a few highly dangerous cells that he expected would continue attacks for “a year or two or three.”
He said the Iraqi military would get help from US forces if needed, but would also rely on assistance from its own citizens.
“To face terrorism, the Iraqi army does not need tanks or armored vehicles, but needs intelligence, fast communication and people’s support,” he said.