updated 11/13/2008 12:39:30 PM ET 2008-11-13T17:39:30

The main U.N. envoy in Iraq on Thursday condemned the killing of two Christian sisters in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

Staffan de Mistura "expressed his shock and outrage at the continued targeting and killing of religious minorities" in a statement.

Iraqi police say the two women were killed Wednesday as they were waiting in front of their house for a ride to work. Their mother was wounded in the attack.

The U.S. military has confirmed the killings and says the Christian family's house was then destroyed by bombs planted inside.

The attack came after about 13,000 Christians fled Mosul last month in the face of threats and attacks from extremists.

De Mistura noted that the killings followed a report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees that some recently displaced Christian families were starting to return as the security situation in Mosul showed signs of improvement.

He also called on Iraqi authorities at the national and local level to protect Christians and other minorities in Iraq and to ensure those behind the attacks "are swiftly brought to justice."

Tension high
Tensions are running high in Mosul, where U.S. and Iraqi troops have been trying since last spring to rout insurgents from Iraq's third largest city.

On Wednesday, an Iraqi soldier opened fire on a group of U.S. soldiers at an Iraqi military base in Mosul, killing two of them and wounding six others before dying in a hail of bullets, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.

There were conflicting accounts about what provoked the attack, which remained under investigation.

Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, commander of U.S. forces in northern Iraq, said it was "premeditated" and occurred in an Iraqi military base's courtyard as the soldiers waited for their two lieutenants to finish a meeting with an Iraqi commander.

But Iraqi military officials, including Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Askari, said the shooting followed a quarrel between the Iraqi soldier and the Americans at an Iraqi base in a volatile Sunni Arab neighborhood in central Mosul.

Violence also continued in Baghdad, which has seen a spate of deadly bombings this week.

A bomb attached to a minibus exploded as the vehicle was traveling from Baghdad to the southern city of Nasiriyah, killing one passenger and wounding seven others, Iraqi police and hospital officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information.

The U.S. military confirmed the attack but said only that eight civilians were wounded. The discrepancy couldn't immediately be reconciled.

Also Thursday, a car bomb killed two police and injured five other people in Ramadi, a former insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad, a police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The U.S. military said a civilian cargo aircraft crashed Thursday south of Fallujah , another city west of the capital where insurgents once held sway.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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