Yesterday afternoon, Bassam Isho a 30 year old Catholic restaurant employee in the district of Muthana, was shot dead by a group of strangers. After the murder, the band scattered covering their tracks and, so far, there is no further information. The young man will be buried in Telkef. On October 1, on the outskirts of Kirkuk, the corpse of a second Christian was found, also shot to death. The body of Hanna Polos Emmanuel, born in 1951, lay sprawled on the edge of the road that leads from the city to Baghdad, the capital of Iraq.
The weekend killings are only the latest in a long trail of blood and violence: on August 15 last a few bombs exploded against the church of St. Ephrem in Kirkuk. The Syriac Orthodox Church is a few hundred meters from the Chaldean cathedral in the center of the city. Again, August 2 a car bomb exploded in front of the Syrian Catholic Church of the Holy Family, injuring 15 people. On the same day, another car bomb, parked next to a Presbyterian church, was defused before it exploded.
Christians in Iraq have increasingly become the target of Islamic fundamentalism which is still active. At the same time, they are also targeted in local feuds. Kirkuk, with its 900 thousand inhabitants, and most important deposits of oil in Iraq, has long been the center of a political-ethnic conflict between Arabs, Turkmens and Kurds. The latter want it annexed to the Kurdistan region, while both Arabs and Turkmen want to maintain links with the Iraqi central government. (DS)