Festivities cancelled as al-Qaida threatens more attacks on Iraqi Christians

Iraqi Christians cancelled Christmas festivities across the country yesterday as al-Qaida insurgents threatened more attacks on their beleaguered community.

A council representing Christian denominations across Iraq had advised its followers to cancel public celebrations out of concern over further terror attacks and as a show of mourning for the victims of the church siege that killed 68 people two months ago. Church officials in the northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul, the southern city of Basra and in the capital confirmed they will not put up decorations or hold evening Mass. They have also urged worshippers to refrain from decorating their homes. Even an appearance by Santa Claus was called off.

"Nobody can ignore the threats of al-Qaida against Iraqi Christians," said Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako in Kirkuk.

"We cannot find a single source of joy that makes us celebrate. The situation of the Christians is bleak."

Christians across Iraq have been living in fear since the Baghdad church attack in October. Days later insurgents targeted Christian homes and neighbourhoods across the capital with a series of bombs.

An al-Qaida front group that claimed responsibility for the church siege vowed to terrorise Christians.