BAGHDAD -- Assailants triggered a coordinated series of explosions outside five churches in Baghdad and Mosul during evening services yesterday, killing 11 people and wounding more than 50. It was the first major assault on Iraq's Christian minority since the 15-month-old insurgency against the US occupation began.
In separate violence, a suicide car bombing outside a police station in Mosul killed five people and injured 53, and three roadside bombs in Iraq killed four, including a US soldier, and wounded six, police said. A drive-by shooting north of Baghdad last night killed three police officers and wounded three others.
The bloodshed followed a night of clashes between US troops and insurgents that killed 12 Iraqis and wounded 39 others in Fallujah.
The unprecedented attacks against Iraq's 750,000-member Christian minority seemed to confirm community members' fears that they might be targeted as suspected collaborators with American forces amid a rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism.
''What are the Muslims doing? Does this mean that they want us out?" Brother Louis, a deacon at Our Lady of Salvation, asked as he cried outside the damaged Assyrian Catholic church. ''Those people who commit these awful criminal acts have nothing to do with God."
A spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior, Sabah Kadhim, attributed the attacks to outsiders.
''It's the same people who want chaos in Iraq," he said. ''It's the so-called jihadists. The Christian community is one of the most respected in Iraq."
The wave of explosions, at least four of them car bombings, began after 6 p.m., as parishioners gathered inside their neighborhood churches for services. The blasts shattered stained-glass windows and sent churchgoers running into the streets, screaming.
Fire engines and ambulances raced to the scenes of the bombings, as black smoke poured into the sky and US attack helicopters circled overhead.
The explosions were minutes apart and hit four churches in Baghdad -- two in Karada, one in the Dora neighborhood, and one in New Baghdad.
A fifth church was hit, in Mosul, about 220 miles north of the capital. The attacks did not appear to be suicide bombings, US military and Iraqi officials said.
''We were in Mass, and suddenly we heard a big boom, and I couldn't feel my body anymore; I didn't feel anything," said Marwan Saqiq, who was covered in blood after the attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad's heavily Christian Karada neighborhood. ''I saw people taking me out with the wood and glass shattered everywhere."
Iraqi police discovered a sixth bomb, consisting of 15 mortar rounds, outside a Baghdad church, and authorities disarmed it, the US military said in a statement.
The Baghdad attacks killed 10 people and injured more than 40 others, according to a US military statement. The Mosul blast killed one person and injured 11 others, police Major Fawaz Fanaan said.
Near the site of the first blast, at an Armenian church in the Christian neighborhood of Karada, US troops from the First Cavalry division blocked roads while Iraqi policemen herded curious onlookers away from the charred wrecks of the car bombs.
In thick evening air smelling of raw sewage and burned tires, women swept up glass shards from windows shattered by the force of the explosion a couple of blocks away.
The Vatican called the attacks ''terrible and worrisome," said a spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini.
Muslim clerics condemned the violence and offered condolences to the Christian community.
''This is a cowardly act and targets all Iraqis," Abdelkarim al-Daraji, spokesman for radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, told Al-Jazeera television.
Mohammed Fadil al-Samara'i, an official with the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party, blamed terrorist groups and others ''who profit from creating civil disturbances in Iraq."
The attacks on the churches signaled a change in tactics for insurgents, who have focused many previous attacks on US forces, Iraqi officials, and police in a drive to push coalition forces from the country, weaken the interim government, and hamper reconstruction efforts.
The attacks are a direct assault on Iraq's unity, said Canon Andrew White, director of the Iraqi Center for Dialogue, Reconciliation, and Peace, an interfaith group in Iraq aimed at promoting religious harmony.
''One of the things Iraq has always been known for is unity between Muslims and Christians," said White, who presides at St. George's Anglican Church, the only non-Iraqi church in the country. ''This could have a devastating effect on Iraq's Christians."
To escape the chaos, many of Iraq's Christians have gone to neighboring Jordan and Syria to wait for the security situation to improve.
In the Mosul attack, insurgents parked a vehicle outside a Catholic church, launched a rocket toward the building, and then detonated the car bomb at about 7 p.m., the US military said in a statement.
A suicide attack had occurred at 8 a.m. in that city, when a white sport utility vehicle sped toward barriers at the Summar police station and a police guard opened fire, killing the driver, the police and US military said.
The vehicle crashed into the concrete barriers around the station and exploded, killing five people, including three police officers, said AbdelAzil Hafoudi, an official at Al-Salam hospital. He said 53 people were wounded.
Meanwhile, a roadside bombing near the town of Samarra hit a passing patrol, killing a US soldier and wounding two others, the military said.
At least 910 US service members have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq in March 2003.
In central Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed two civilians and wounded two others, said Fawad Allah, an officer at the Karada police station. And a bomb along a southern Baghdad highway killed a man yesterday and wounded two others, said police Lieutenant Colonel Assad Ibrahim Hameed.
Globe correspondent Christopher Allbritton contributed to this report from Baghdad.