KIRKUK, Iraq (AFP) — Two car bombs exploded outside churches in quick succession in the northern Iraq city of Kirkuk on Wednesday, in the latest in a wave of attacks on Christian buildings, police said.
The attacks, within two minutes of each other, caused damage to buildings, cars and surrounding houses but no injuries, said Brigadier General Burhan Habib Tayib, head of city police in Kirkuk.
The bombings come after similar attacks on churches and a monastery in the main northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Sunday which wounded four people and damaged buildings.
Tayib told AFP that the first car bomb exploded outside the Cathedral of Kirkuk, a Chaldean Christian building in the centre of the city, at around 4.40 pm (1340 GMT).
It was followed two minutes later by a car bomb blast outside the Assyrian Christian Maar Afram church, about a kilometre (less than a mile) away.
"A lot of material damage was caused," said Tayib. "Cars and surrounding houses and the glass and walls of the churches all suffered damage."
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Tuesday told the Vatican's ambassador to Iraq, Monsignor Francis Assisi Chullikatt, that his government is committed to ensuring the safety of Christians following the attacks in Mosul.
"The Iraqi government is anxious to ensure the safety of Iraqi Christians," Maliki told the ambassador at a meeting in Baghdad, adding that it is not only Christians who are being targeted but all religious groups, including Muslims.
"Christians and Muslims are united in the face of terrorists and outlaws," Maliki said.
On Monday, Pope Benedict XVI expressed concern for Christians in Iraq in his annual speech to Vatican diplomats.
Reconciliation in Iraq is "urgently needed," he said.
"Terrorist attacks, threats and violence continue, especially against the Christian community," the pontiff said.
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