Christmas Turns Bloody in Iraq, Afghanistan: Deadly Bombings in Baghdad Kill Christians, Taliban Rockets Hit US Mission in Kabul

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By Gopi Chandra Kharel | December 26, 2013 8:47 PM EST

The joy of Christmas on Wednesday quickly turned gory in two separate incidences in Iraq and Afghanistan as 37 people were killed in three bombings in Christian areas of Baghdad, while a pair of rockets fired by Taliban struck the US embassy in Kabul, shortly before dawn on the same day.

A car bomb that exploded as worshipers were leaving a Church in the Iraqi capital's southern Dora area killed 26 and wounded 38, police have told various news outlets. Two other bombs ripped through a nearby crowded market in a separate, mostly Christian area of Doura, killing another 11 people and wounding 21, the Associated Press reported.

In a separate incident in Kabul, Afghanistan, the US embassy was hit by rockets before sunrise on Wednesday, sending hundreds of US diplomats and workers based in the mission into frenzied commotion.  Although two rounds of rocket struck the sprawling embassy compound, no Americans were hurt, reports say. But Afghan officials have said that another two rockets hit elsewhere in the city and that three police were wounded when they were trying to defuse one of the rockets that did not explode in impact.

US Calls Baghdad Attacks 'Senseless'

The US embassy in Baghdad condemned the bombings in a statement, saying that Iraq had suffered "deliberate and senseless targeting by terrorists for many years, as have many other innocent Iraqis".

Although no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks in Baghdad, Iraq's rapidly dwindling Christian minority has been a target of al Qaeda Sunni militants in the past, which includes a church attack in 2010 that killed dozens of Christians.

Militants linked with al Qaeda have beefed up attacks on the Shi'ite government led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The United Nations has said that more than 8,000 people have been killed in attacks in Iraq this year alone.

Scores of Shi'ite pilgrims were killed in car bombs, shootings and suicide attacks a week before the Shi'ite holy day of Arbain that coincided with Christmas Eve this year. Three people were killed in a bomb blast in a minibus in Southern Baghdad that was travelling with pilgrims on their way back from the Shi'ite holy city of Kerbala.

Numerous other bombings over the past days have been reported in the secluded Muslim country.

Taliban Claims Responsibility for Rocket Strikes in Kabul

However, Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the incident of rocket attacks in Kabul, admitting in a statement, in which the insurgents revealed that they had struck the embassy and the headquarters of the US-led coalition located near the mission, with four rockets.

"The magnitude of the attack and the scope of the losses have yet to be determined," the statement read as it stepped back from an earlier claim made by a spokesman for the insurgents that the attack had inflicted heavy casualties. The claim had come earlier through a twitter message posted shortly after the attack, but Taliban is known to exaggerate the effects of its attacks.

Taliban made no reference to the attack's occurrence on a Christmas day, although they have widely been seen as an assault against the Christian festival. 

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