06/09/2007, 00.00
IRAQ
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The killers of Fr. Ragheed and the three deacons wanted their conversion to Islam

New details emerge surrounding the assassination of the Chaldean priest and his three friends in Mosul. Sunni Islam’s highest authority in Iraq condemns the attacks against the Christians and lays “all blame at the door of the Government and occupying forces”. The Iraqi Ambassador to the Holy See on the Nineveh Plain project “we work to build greater unity, not barriers”.

Mosul (AsiaNews) – Before opening fire on Fr. Raghhed Gani and his three deacons, the killers demanded their conversion to Islam.  These emerging details of the murder of the 4 Chaldeans have been posted by the Arab site Ankawa.com which in these last few days has been re-creating the ferocious nature of the Mosul attack through eye-witness accounts.

 

This information confirms the theory of a target murder, well planned and in step with the vast campaign of persecution against Christians currently underway in Iraq.  So far there has been no claim of responsibility for the “senseless gesture”, as it was defined by Benedict XVI who today is due to meet president George W. Bush in the Vatican.

 

In the interim a press statement released by Iraq’s highest authority for Sunni Islam, the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq (AMSI) has condemned the murder of the Chaldean priest and his three sub-deacons, which took place June 3rd last following Sunday mass.  The declaration attributes all blame for the deaths to the “occupation forces” and the “current Iraqi government”.  The Sunni academics also denounce the fact that “what is happening on the ground in Iraq is pure terror, killing and destruction, due to a total deterioration in security”.

 

While tensions rise, some politicised Christian groups in the United States are pushing for the creation of an autonomous region for the “Assyrians in Iraq”, which they see as the only solution for their survival.  In the past local bishops on the ground have expressed their strong opposition to this “dangerous” project.

 

The Iraqi Ambassador to the Holy See, Assyrian Albert Yelda, agrees with the bishops.  The diplomat described the Mosul killings as a “shameful crime, a tragic event for all Iraq”.  “The government – he continued – condemns attacks, repression, and persecution against any minority”.

 

In an interview with AsiaNews he underlines that now, the priority is to “regain stability, guarantee security for the entire population and keep the country united, not create barriers”.  “Now is not the time to speak of safe haven for Christians, an idea which I do not support at all” he underlined.  “Christians must remain in their homeland and the government is doing all it can to guarantee their security not only in Baghdad, but also in those areas where terrorism has so far not taken over”.

 

Only “by remaining united, Christians, Muslims, Turkmen, Kurds and Yezidi will web e able to uproot this evil from Iraq and the entire region”.  Ambassador Yelda underscored that “the issue of terrorism is a global problem; this is why the international community must provide the Iraqi government with the necessary means to quash this ideology of evil which they are attempting to impose on us”.

 

“External elements – he added – are trying their very best to divide the government and the people; this is why the world cannot, must not abandon us.  The International Community must remain by our side, because if there is no peace in Iraq, then there cannot be peace in the rest of the region”.

 

 

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