06/18/2007, 00.00
IRAQ

Chaldean priest abducted in Baghdad is free and in good health

Fr Hani Abdel Ahad is released after 12 days. “He is very tired but was not mistreated,” says someone who met him. Persecution of Christians now moves to the al-Amariya and Hai al-Jamiya neighbourhoods with bombs placed in a home garden and threats of beheading.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Fr Hani Abdel Ahad, the Chaldean priest kidnapped last June 6 in Baghdad, is free and in good health. According to Mgr Jacques Issac, rector of Babel College, who visited him yesterday at the Chaldean Bishop’s Residence in the Iraqi capital, the clergyman “is very tired, but in good conditions. He was not mistreated” during his 12-day ordeal.

Father Hani, 33, is parish priest at the Wisdom Chaldean Church. He was abducted along with five other young Christian men who were on their way to a minor seminary in Baghdad. The young men were released the following day but a “big ransom” was demanded for the release of the priest. The kidnappers, probably common criminals interested only in money, contacted the Chaldean Patriarch, Card Emmanuel III Delly, telling him their demands.

Father Hani’s abduction took place just three days before the barbaric murder of Fr Ragheed Gani and three subdeacons in Mosul. His is the eighth case of abduction of a Chaldean priest in the capital.

In Iraq kidnapping priests or even worse, killing them, is not only a source of money but also a way to terrorise the now shrinking Christian community whose surviving members resist against al odds against an ongoing campaign of persecution.

After the Dora neighbourhood was ethnically cleansed of most of its Christian residents, now the al-Amariya and Hai al-Jamiya neighbourhoods are being targeted.

According to sources of ankawa.com two families in al-Amariya who refused to leave their homes were finally persuaded by a bomb blast in their garden, which seriously damaged the buildings. No one was injured but the families found themselves in the street during the night time curfew and had to find refuge with neighbours.

When they tried to get back home after the curfew to salvage some of their belongings they were met by terrorists who threatened to behead them and then burn them.

The death threats did not even spare the families’ Muslim neighbours who had tried to help the hapless Christians.

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