10/17/2007, 00.00
IRAQ
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Ultimatum for two priests abducted in Mosul, 72 hours to pay the ransom

Captors reiterate their demand to Syro-Catholic archbishop, who says the two priests are doing well. So far though, no direct contact with Fathers Ishoa and Afas.

Mosul (AsiaNews) – There are only 72 hours to raise the huge sum (a million US dollars) needed to free two Syro-Catholic priests abducted on Saturday in Mosul. Their unknown captors are sticking to their original demand which they reiterated in a “brief telephone call” to Syro-Catholic archbishop, Mgr Basile George Casmoussa, in which they also set a deadline for payment. The prelate himself told AsiaNews about it, adding that the Fr Mazen Ishoa (in photo) and Fr Pius Afas “are doing well.”

The archbishop, who is personally following the negotiations, repeated the captors’ reassurances. “They told me,” he said, “that our priests are doing well, [but] the demand for payment remains unchanged.”

Mgr Casmoussa stressed however that “so far there have been no direct contacts with the two priests,” urging everyone “not to stop praying. It is the only and best thing we can do.”

The fact that there is no evidence about Fathers Ishoa and Afas’s well-being is cause of concern to Christians in Iraq, many of whom have gone through the same tragic kidnapping experiences in the past, mindful that “often captors kill their hostages, whether Christian or not, after a ransom is paid.”

Last Saturday afternoon, Father Afas, 60, and Father Ishoa, 35, were going downtown Mosul to Our Lady of Fatima Parish Church, in al Faisaliya neighbourhood, when they were taken away by unknown armed men.

The first clergyman runs a Catholic magazine, whilst Father Ishoa was ordained only a few months ago.

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