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The death toll from a hostage standoff at a Catholic church in Baghdad has risen to 58, police officials with the Iraqi Interior Ministry said Monday.
Seventy-five others were wounded in the attack by armed gunmen Sunday, the officials said, adding that most of the casualties were women and children. Two priests were also among the dead as well as 17 security officers and five gunmen.
The hours-long standoff ended Sunday after Iraqi security forces stormed the Sayidat al-Nejat church. Eight suspects were arrested.
“All the marks point out that this incident carries the fingerprints of al Qaeda,” Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul Qader Obeidi said on state television Sunday.
He said that most of the hostages were killed or wounded when the kidnappers set off explosives inside the church.
At least two of the attackers were wearing explosive vests, which they detonated just minutes before security forces raided the church, the police officials said.
The Islamic State of Iraq later claimed responsibility for the attack through a statement posted on a radical Islamic website. The umbrella group includes a number of Sunni extremist organizations and has ties to al Qaeda in Iraq.
“The Mujahedeens raided a filthy nest of the nests of polytheism, which has been long taken by the Christians of Iraq as a headquarter for a war against the religion of Islam and they were able by the grace of God and His glory to capture those were gathered in and to take full control of all its entrances,” the group said on the website.
Pope Benedict XVI said Monday that he was praying “for the victims of this absurd violence – all the more ferocious in that it hit defenseless people gathered in the house of the Lord, which is home to reconciliation and love.”
Survivors of the ordeal said they were about to begin Sunday night services when the gunmen entered the church, according to Martin Chulov, a journalist for the U.K.-based Guardian newspaper who was on the scene. A priest ushered the congregants into a backroom, Chulov reported that survivors said.
At one point, one of the gunmen entered the room and threw an unidentified explosive device inside, causing casualties, Chulov said.
The U.S. military spokesman said that as many as 120 people were taken hostage.
The gunmen seized the hostages after attacking the Baghdad Stock Market in the central part of the Iraqi capital earlier Sunday, police said. Four armed men entered the nearby Sayidat al-Nejat church after clashing with Iraqi security forces trying to repel the stock market attack.
Iraq’s Interior Ministry told CNN that gunmen attacked the stock market to distract Iraqi security forces who were outside the church to protect it.
A military jury on Sunday gave teen terrorist Omar Khadr a 40-year prison sentence for killing an American commando in Afghanistan, but the sentence was merely symbolic.
The U.S. already had agreed to limit Khadr’s prison time to eight years, and Canada has said it would allow Khadr to serve the bulk of his sentence there. Canada had been publicly cagey about its agreement to the deal.
An astonishing message likening the supporters of a Tea Party favorite to child molesters was left on the voicemail of a member of his team by television reporters.
Joe Miller, the Republican Senate candidate from Alaska, was so stunned to hear his campaign being smeared that he released the audio footage along with a press release containing a transcription.
What is going on here? A station in Delaware did not run the Christine O’Donnell program this morning even though the 30 minute program was paid for. They said they “forgot” to air it.
The ad was supposed to air on Sunday night. They forgot then, too. The O’Donnell Campaign released the following statement: “It’s still unclear as to why the local cable channel failed to air the half-hour long special.”
On the bright side, at least the president didn’t have another meltdown. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greeted kids for Halloween at the White House.
They didn’t expect this… One of the kids dressed as Obama Joker. The kid forgot to write “Socialist” on his t-shirt. The president pushed the poor child on his way. Click HERE for video footage.
Notice that the White House stopped talking about “Recovery Summer” a while ago? Today’s new releases from Commerce may help explain why. Personal income dropped for the first time since the technical beginning of the recovery in July 2009.
Not surprisingly, consumer spending slowed even with the back-to-school sales season. How did Reuters report the news? Take a guess.
The final USA Today/Gallup measure of Americans’ voting intentions for Congress shows Republicans continuing to hold a substantial lead over Democrats among likely voters.
The Republicans’ lead is large enough to suggest that, regardless of turnout, the GOP will win more than the 40 seats needed to give them the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Anti-American-Hollywood is giving an Honorary Academy Award to French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, an historically important director but a raving and unapologetic anti-Semite.
Godard has called a reputable French producer a “dirty Jew”; Francois Truffaut broke with him over this as did Claude Lanzmann, the great French documentarian of the Holocaust (“Shoah”).