Thousands rally for Iraqi Christians in Belgium

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Thousands of people Saturday took to the streets of Brussels in support of Iraqi Christians, targeted by a string of bombings this week and following a church massacre that claimed 53 lives.

At least 4,000 protesters carried placards reading "Stop the genocide", "Freedom to live in one's own country", and "Stop the massacres of Christians in Iraq".

Organisers put the number of demonstrators at 5,000, while the police estimated the crowd at 4,000.

Other demonstrations were planned in Paris on Sunday and Stockholm on Monday.

Six people died in a spate of anti-Christian bombings earlier this week after the October 31 attack at the main Syriac Catholic cathedral in Baghdad.

In that attack, 44 Christian worshippers, two priests and seven security personnel died when extremists took hostages and then blew themselves up during mass.

An estimated 800,000 Christians lived in Iraq before the US-led invasion of 2003 but that number has since shrunk to around 500,000 in the face of repeated attacks against their community and churches.

© 2010 AFP

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