At least five powerful explosions at or near Christian churches shook the cities of Baghdad and Mosul Sunday in what appeared to be a new tactic of the already lethal insurgency in Iraq.

The U.S. military said that the church bombings in Iraq killed 10 Iraqis and wounded more than 40.

While hundreds have died over the past 15 months in bombings directed at the U.S. led coalition, Iraqi supporters and people working for the interim government of Iraq, this appeared to be the first seemingly coordinated assault on Iraq's minority Christian population and its institutions.

Separately Sunday, an attack outside a police station in Mosul, in northern Iraq, claimed five lives and injured 40, according to wire service reports.

In addition, one U.S. soldier from the First Infantry Division died and two were injured when their patrol was struck by a remotely detonated makeshift bomb near Samarra, north of Baghdad, at about 12:30 p.m., said a coalition statement.

The attacks on churches came over the course of about two hours. The relative order of the attacks remained unclear as did the names of all the churches.

An Interior Ministry spokesman quoted by the Associated Press said a total of four churches were hit in Baghdad: two in the busy Karada district where many Christians live and worship, one in the Dora neighborhood and one in New Baghdad.

An Armenian Christian church and an Assyrian Christian Church in Karada were among the targets, authorities said. Reuters reported that the deadliest attack, at a Chaldean church in southern Baghdad, killed at least 12 people as worshipers left the building, according to witnesses.

In Mosul, a Christian church was hit by a car bomb attack, killing at least one civilian and wounding 15, the Reuters news agency said.

A colonel in the local police force said the blast, in a heavily populated area in the north of the city, also caused widespread damage and wounded several people, Reuters said.

There are about 800,000 Christians in Iraq, most of them in Baghdad. There have been a string of attacks in recent weeks on alcohol sellers throughout Iraq, the majority of whom are Christians of either the Assyrian, Chaldean or Armenian denominations.

Fred Barbash reported from Washington.

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