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Christians in Baghdad celebrate Christmas in fear after deadly attack

(REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani)Iraqi Christians pray during a mass on Christmas at St. Joseph Chaldean church in Baghdad, Iraq December 25, 2016.

Christians in Baghdad celebrated Christmas in fear due to a recent attack that left at least three people dead and four wounded.

According to Reuters, a gunman opened fire on two Christian-owned shops that sell alcohol on Friday in the city's Ghadeer neighborhood.

The police said that three people were killed, but local activists are claiming that the actual death toll is higher. Rayan al-Kildani, the commander of a Christian militia known as Babiliyon Brigades, said that eight Christians and one member of the Yazidi sect was killed in the attack.

Vian Dakhil, a lawmaker from the ancient Yazidi sect, also reported the same death toll.

"The criminals should be brought to justice as soon as possible so that their punishment serves as an example to those who dare kill civilians in the name of religion," Dakhil wrote on Twitter, as reported by Reuters.

Maria Polos, a retired schoolteacher in the district where the attack occurred, said that she and other Christians are fearful of celebrating Christmas in public.

"We fear getting killed like those in the alcohol shops," she told Reuters. "We feel we're aliens in this country," she added.

Christian-run shops that sell alcohol were frequently targeted by Shi'ite and Sunni militants during the years of the sectarian civil war in Iraq. Christians in the city are able to celebrate Christmas in churches, but many are still fearful because they feel that the authorities do not give them adequate protection.

Meanwhile, a Christian group has threatened to withdraw its forces from the battle against ISIS if the authorities fail to reveal information about the perpetrators of the attack.

"We ask security in charge of Baghdad and police to disclose who's behind the crime, and also arrest the criminals," said Rian Chaldean, Secretary General for the Babylon Movement.

"If security officials failed to disclose the ones who committed the crime... we will withdraw some of our heroes from the battle zones against Daesh," he added, referring to the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

The Babylon Movement is composed of Christian Chaldean fighters that are mostly embedded with Shiite forces who are engaging ISIS in the south and west of Mosul, according to Rudaw.

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