Fourteen Iraqi Christians were believed dead last night at least 60 wounded in Baghdad and Mosul and after car bombs exploded at five churches. The churches were crowded with people for evening services.

“These were the actions of terrorists,” said Bishop Rabban al Qas of Amadiya in a telephone interview with AsiaNews. This terrorism and fundamental Islam, says the bishop, are influenced by foreign groups.

“These are not the actions of Iraqis; Iraqis have never done these things,” he said.

In the last few months, several liquor shops, owned by Christians, were attacked. But yesterday’s explosions clearly indicate an escalation in the violence.

“It is a type of vendetta,” the bishop continued, “they are attacking oriental Christians because they want to attack the West. In their eyes, the West and Christianity are the same.”

One interior ministry official supported the bishops statement, suggesting that the attacks might have been intended to cause outrage in the countries of coalition forces in Iraq.

The co-ordinated atrocity, timed to cause the maximum carnage, is the first time insurgents have targeted Iraq's 750,000-strong Christian minority, most of whom live in Baghdad, where four of the five attacks happened last night.

The bloodiest assault was at the Chaldean church in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Doura.

U.S. military and Iraqi security forces cordoned off the areas as worshippers, many bleeding from wounds caused by flying glass and debris, fled the churches. Police said at least two of the blasts were caused by suicide bombers.

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Two of the other Baghdad explosions were in the central Karada neighborhood. The U.S. military found an unexploded bomb outside another church nearby.

In the northern city of Mosul, a car bomb detonated at 7 p.m., just as worshippers were leaving evening mass at the Catholic church. Captain Angela Bowman, for the U.S. military, said four people were wounded and rocket-propelled grenades had also been fired at the church.