Six injured in Christmas clashes outside Iraqi church

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Mosul_(dpa) _ Six people were injured on Friday in clashes between Iraq's Christian and Shabak minorities near a church in the northern Iraqi town of Bartala, witnesses said.

Witnesses in Bartala, 40 kilometres north of Mosul, told the German Press Agency dpa that fighting broke out between Shabak residents, who are Shiite Muslims, and Christians near the town's church after the Christmas service, following accusations that the Christians had torn down a poster of the Prophet Mohammed's grandson, Hussein, near the church.

Shiite Muslims are preparing for Ashura, a holiday commemorating Hussein's death in battle in the southern Iraqi city of Karbala in the year 680.

Christians reportedly barricaded themselves in the church after the fighting broke out, but returned home after Iraqi security forces and Kurdish peshmerga militiamen, who share responsibility for policing the town, intervened to restore order.

Mosul and its environs are among the most ethnically and religiously diverse areas in Iraq, and among the most dangerous. Nearly seven years after the US-led invasion of the city, residents of all ethnicities continue to die in near-daily bombings and shootings in and around the city.

Late on Thursday night, a high-ranking member of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's Baath Party was fatally shot in a suburb of Mosul, witnesses said.

Ahmed Kamel al-Badrani, a former officer in Hussein's feared military intelligence apparatus, was gunned down in front of his home in the western Mosul district of Amil, witnesses said. dpa ag ka zar mga

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