Christmas Day bomb attacks in the Iraqi capital killed at least 35 people and wounded more than 50 in an area where many Christians live. Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako said, however, that he does not believe Christians were the specific target.
Workers swept shards of glass and rubble from two bomb blasts at a Baghdad market in a neighborhood with a large Christian population. A third bomb exploded near a church but well after the day's Christmas service had ended.
Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako told VOA he had finished the service at the Saint John Church in Dora more than an hour before the bomb went off near the church and a police station. "Today, at nine o'clock we had a Mass and the Mass was finished at 10. At 11:15 there was an attack against a police post in the area and poor people in the area. Among the dead there were no Christians. It had nothing to do with the church," he explained.
In a speech on Iraq's state-run television, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urged Iraqis to side with the government and not with the Islamist militants blamed for a recent surge in violence in the country.
He called on all Iraqis to stay away from those who are causing violence and help avoid any further bloodshed. He said the Iraqi military will pursue the extremists all over the country until Iraqis are safe and secure everywhere.
In his Christmas sermon, Archbishop Sako urged Iraqis to use dialogue, rather than violence, to resolve their differences.
He called for peace in the wake of the horrible violence that is wracking all of the Middle East. "How many people must die in places like Iraq, Syria and Egypt before the violence comes to an end?" he asked.
Iraqi military forces are conducting operations in western Anbar province, trying to track down the al-Qaida-linked groups blamed for the country's worst wave of violence since 2008. More than 8.000 people have been killed since the start of the year.