Car bombs exploded near four Christian churches and the office of the Vatican envoy, killing three people January 29.

The blasts occurred under 30 minutes apart near two churches in Baghdad and two in Kirkuk. The fifth bomb exploded near the Vatican mission in Baghdad.

Three civilians were killed and one was wounded in the attack on the Church of the Virgin in Kirkuk, and six civilians were hurt in the blast outside an Orthodox church.

Car bombs exploded outside St. Joseph's Catholic Church and an Anglican church in Baghdad. There were no casualties reported in the attack on the Vatican embassy building in the east of the city.

No group claimed responsibility for the bombings, though suspicion fell on Islamic extremists who have been responsible for massive car bombings and suicide attacks against Iraqi Shi'ite civilians.

Senior Shi'ite lawmaker Ali al-Adeeb told the Associated Press the bombings were a reaction against Christians, whom terrorists believe support the U.S. military in Iraq. Al-Adeeb said, "Such acts are rejected by Shi'ites and Sunnis alike who have been living together with our Christian brothers in Iraq throughout history."

Christians, who make up less than 3 percent of Iraq's 27 million people, have been the target of recent violence. The Baghdad churches were similarly attacked in August and October 2004.

Group holding Christian Peacemakers renews threats

Kidnappers threatened to kill four Christian peace advocates if all Iraqi prisoners were not set free. The activists who were abducted in November were shown in a videotape broadcast January 28.

The video, which is dated January 21, showed the four men—a Briton, an American, and two Canadians—standing against a white wall. They were shown speaking, but their voices could not be heard.

The video was played on the Arabic-language television station Al Jazeera. The announcer said the hostage-takers, the Swords of Righteousness Brigades, issued a statement warning of the "last chance" for U.S. and Iraqi authorities to release all Iraqi prisoners in return for freeing the hostages. "Otherwise, their fate will be death," the statement added, without mentioning a deadline.

The captors have threatened to kill the men before and previously set a deadline of December 10.

The four were seized Nov. 26 as they were working with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), which investigates allegations of abuse against Iraqi prisoners. CPT identified the four men as Norman Kember, 74, of London; Tom Fox, 54, of Virginia; James Loney, 41, of Toronto; and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, also a Canadian.

Related Elsewhere:

More on Iraq's Christian community is available in our full coverage area, including articles on earlier church attacks and the work of Christian Peacemaker Teams.