Jihad Grinch steals Christmas for Iraqi Christians. "There will be only small Mass in one church in Basra without any signs of joy or decoration and under the protection of Iraqi security forces. We are fully aware of al-Qaida threats."
"3 Iraqi cities cancel Christmas festivities," by Yahya Barzanji and Sameer N. Yacoub for Associated Press, December 22 (thanks to JCB):
KIRKUK, Iraq - Iraqi Christians on Wednesday called off Christmas festivities in three cities across the country as al-Qaida insurgents threatened more attacks on a beleaguered community still terrified from a bloody siege on a Baghdad church.
Church officials in the northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul along with the southern city of Basra said they will not put up Christmas decorations, have canceled evening Mass and urged worshippers to refrain from decorating their homes. Even an appearance by Santa Claus has been called off.
"Nobody can ignore the threats of al-Qaida against Iraqi Christians," said Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako in Kirkuk. "We cannot find a single source of joy that makes us celebrate. The situation of the Christians is bleak."
Christians across Iraq have been living in fear since a Baghdad church attack in October that left 68 people dead. Days later insurgents targeted Christian homes and neighborhoods across the capital with a series of bombs.
An al-Qaida front group that claimed responsibility for the church siege vowed at the time to carry out a reign of terror against Christians.
The Islamic State of Iraq renewed its threats in a message posted late Tuesday on a website frequented by Islamic extremists....
Christians in Iraq's second-largest city of Basra, 340 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad decided to cancel all celebrations. Saad Matti, a Christian legislator on the Basra provincial council, said the decision was made out of respect for the victims of the Our Lady of Salvation church siege and because of the al-Qaida threats.
"There will be only small Mass in one church in Basra without any signs of joy or decoration and under the protection of Iraqi security forces," he said. "We are fully aware of al-Qaida threats."