03/07/2008, 00.00

Kidnappers reaffirm their demands in Mosul archbishop’s abduction

A week since Mgr Rahho was abducted no assurance on his health has been given. In the latest phone contact made last night kidnappers did not allow mediators to talk with the prelate. A Via Crucis around Kirkuk cathedral will be conducted today for his release.

Mosul (AsiaNews) – Exactly a week since the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, Mgr Faraj Rahho, was kidnapped, concern for his fate remains high. Last night his kidnappers made contact after three days of silence. “They reaffirmed their terms but still won’t allow us to talk to the bishop,” sources close to the negotiators told AsiaNews. According to rumours the ransom demanded is “huge” and includes “political” demands.

Although “difficult” negotiations continue, there are some aspects that have alarmed the Chaldean community already so sadly accustomed to confronting such crises.

First, there is the abduction itself. “It was very violent. Last 29 February they waited for the bishop to leave the church and killed the three people who were with him.”

Then there are the differences. “Unlike other abduction cases involving clergymen, the amount of money demanded this time went up rather than down.”

lastly, the kidnappers “did not set any deadline or explicitly mentioned the release.”

In last night’s phone call when mediators asked to speak with the prelate, who is very ill, the answer they got was that he was getting “daily medical care from a doctor.”

For sources in Mosul the talks lack credibility and are insufficient to allay fears about the bishop’s conditions.

There are strong fears that a terrorist group might be behind the abduction and not simply common criminals trying to extort money. This echoes a statement the commander of US troops in northern Iraq made two days ago.

In any event hope is still alive in the community whose members continue praying.

Today around Kirkuk cathedral a Via Crucis will be conducted for Monsignor Rahho’s release.

“We are praying and hoping that this crisis can end with Monsignor Rahho’s return,” said Mgr Louis Sako, archbishop of Mosul.

Strong expressions of solidarity and closeness as well as statements of condemnation and appeals for the prelate’s safe return have come from within the Muslim community.

Sources in Mosul told AsiaNews that government authorities are also involved in a “serious way” in search operations.

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See also
Muslim leaders also call for the release of the bishop of Mosul
Mosul Christians, angry and desperate
Kirkuk: young Christian abducted, tortured and beheaded
Security but also a political solution for Mosul
Chaldean bishop of Mosul abducted