Iraqi officials say a car bomb went off near a Baghdad church during Christmas Mass, killing at least 15 people.

A police officer says Wednesday's explosion took place in the city's southern Dora neighborhood, which has a small Christian population.

The officer says more than 30 people were wounded in the bombing.

A medical official confirmed the casualty figures. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.

Iraq's dwindling Christian community, which is estimated to number about 400,000 to 600,000 people, has often come under attack by al-Qaida and other insurgents.

The latest attack comes as Iraqi security forces are carrying out a massive military operation in Iraq's western desert, hunting for al-Qaida and militant hideouts near the border with Syria.