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11 Christians Murdered in Weekend Attacks -- Seven Believers Beheaded in Somalia; Four Killed in Violence in Iraq
Contact: Jerry Dykstra, Media Relations Director, Open Doors USA, 616-915-4117, JerryD@odusa.org
 
SANTA ANA, Calif., July 13 /Christian Newswire/ -- At least 11 Christians were killed in attacks in Somalia and Iraq over the weekend.
 
Al-Shabaab, Somalia's hard-line insurgents, reportedly beheaded seven Somalis for being "Christians" and "spies." This news was announced by Reuters News Agency on Friday. The report stated that the incident took place in the south-central town of Baidoa.
 
In Iraq, the Associated Press reported a car bomb exploded near a church in Baghdad, killing three Christians and a Muslim. Another Christian was killed in the northern city of Kirkuk. Several more churches were also bombed in Baghdad over the weekend.
 
The Reuters report from Somalia pointed out that although al-Shabaab has carried out similar severe punishments in regions under its control, these executions allegedly are the largest number done at the same time.
 
Somalia is believed to have a 99.95% Islamic following. There are only a handful Somali Christians inside the country and they have been forced underground. Some Christians have taken refuge in neighboring countries.
 
These decapitations follow an incident in Mogadishu on June 25 in which al-Shabaab amputated a hand and a leg each of four teenagers accused of stealing mobile phones and other possessions. With these actions al-Shabaab is extending its reign of terror across Somalia.
 
Somalia is ranked No. 5 on this year's Open Doors World Watch List which ranks the top persecutors of Christians. The previous year Somalia was ranked No. 12.
 
"Those who come to Christ in Somalia do so at a huge risk. Most of them are Muslim Background Believers who face unbelievable pressure and persecution, even death as reported this weekend," says Open Doors USA President/CEO Carl Moeller.
 
"Somalia desperately needs our prayers as conditions deteriorate. This country needs both physical and spiritual nourishment. Please join me in praying for the tremendous needs of Somalia and for the few brave believers inside the country."
 
Iraq Christians Living In Fear
 
The car bomb detonated outside the Virgin Mary Church in east Baghdad. In addition to the four deaths, at least 16 others were wounded in the attack, according to the Los Angeles Times. The paper also reported five other bombs were exploded outside churches around Baghdad on Saturday night and Sunday.
 
CNN reported a gunman shot and killed Rizko Aziz Nissan on Sunday morning outside his home in central Kirkuk. Nissan was an Iraqi Christian, but the motives behind his killing were not immediately clear since he was also a government official.
 
One survivor of one of the bombings in Iraq told CNN that "if this (violence) continues, there will be no Christians left in Iraq."
 
Although it is difficult to state how many Iraqi Christians are in the country, the number in 2003, prior to the fall of Saddam Hussein, was around 550,000. Church leaders in Iraq conservatively estimate that almost 165,000 Christians live outside Iraq – in Syria, Jordan or the West – and that another 70,000 have fled to northern Iraq. That means less than 400,000 Christians remain in mainland Iraq. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has estimated that at least 2 million Iraqis have fled the country since 2003 and another 2 million are displaced inside the country.
 
 "With U.S. troops pulling back from cities on July 1 and these weekend bombings, Iraqi Christians fear that this could mark a resurgence of anti-Christian violence," says Moeller. "Christians have always been caught in the crossfire in Iraq. Many have fled the country. We need to lift up in prayer those who remain. They are scared and living in daily fear. Please pray that these bombings will end and believers can worship in peace."
 
An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world's most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to our Website at www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.
 
 (For more information or to set up an interview, contact Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email jerryd@odusa.org).