BAGHDAD (AP) – Iraqi security forces stormed a Baghdad church where militants had taken an entire congregation hostage for four hours, leaving at least 52 people dead, including a priest, Iraqi officials said Monday.
It was not immediately clear whether the hostages died at the hands of the attackers or during the rescue late on Sunday night in an affluent neighborhood of the capital.
The incident began when militants wearing suicide vests and armed with grenades attacked the Iraqi stock exchange at dusk Sunday before turning their attention to the nearby Our Lady of Deliverance church – one of Baghdad’s main Catholic places of worship – taking about 120 Christians hostage.
Maj. Gen. Hussein Ali Kamal, the deputy interior minister, said 52 people were killed and 67 wounded, in the bloodbath. Officials said at least one priest and 10 policemen were among the dead. Many of the wounded were women.
A Christian member of parliament on Monday described the Iraqi rescue operation as “not professional,” saying “it was a hasty action that prompted the terrorists to kill the worshippers.”