The Church in the northern Iraqi oil hub of Kirkuk has cancelled Christmas festivities over fears about threats from an Al Qaeda-linked group, said an AFP report on the ABC.
"The Christians of Kirkuk will not celebrate the feast of Christmas this year, except for masses, which will not be held at night but at 10am, after myself and 10 other Christian personages received threats from the so-called Islamic State of Iraq," Chaldean Catholic archbishop Monsignor Louis Sarko said.
"I fear that Christians will be targeted, which is why all ceremonies have been cancelled."
The Iraqi affiliate of Al Qaeda, the ISI, claimed responsibility for an October 31 attack on a cathedral in Baghdad in which 44 Christian worshippers, two priests and seven security force personnel were killed.
Human rights group Amnesty International has called on the Iraqi government to step up protection of Christians.
Amnesty "called on the Iraqi government to do more to protect the country's Christian minority from an expected spike in violent attacks as they prepare to celebrate Christmas," the London-based group said in a statement.
"Attacks on Christians and their churches by armed groups have intensified in past weeks and have clearly included war crimes," Malcolm Smart, Amnesty's director for the Middle East and north Africa, said in the statement.
"We fear that militants are likely to attempt serious attacks against Christians during the Christmas period for maximum publicity and to embarrass the government," he added.
FULL STORY AND RELATED COVERAGE
Town cancels Christmas after Qaeda threats (ABC/AFP)
Baghdad Christians cancel Christmas celebrations amid terror attack fears in Iraq (News.com.au/NewsCore)
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