03/06/2008, 00.00
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Mosul, new contact with the bishop's kidnappers awaited

A telephone call is expected this evening, in which the mediators will demand to "hear the voice" of Archbishop Rahho. Concern is increasing, and a U.S. commander advances the theory that terrorism may be behind the kidnapping. Masses and prayers in Rome and Damascus for the "three martyrs" and for the safety of the prelate.

Mosul (AsiaNews) - Concern is increasing in Mosul, where since March 3 there has been no contact with the kidnappers of Chaldean archbishop Faraj Rahho.  The prelate was kidnapped on February 29 by an unknown group.  While a sign from the kidnappers is expected this evening in Mosul, the Chaldeans in the country and abroad continue to pray.  Today in Rome, in the church of St Ephrem, the Chaldean community will celebrate a Mass of intercession on behalf of the three men killed, and for the safety of Archbishop Rahho.  In Syria as well, which has the greatest concentration of Christians from Iraq, "they are praying that the bishop may be restored to his flock".  Last Sunday in Damascus, in the Chaldean parish of St Teresa, the Mass was dedicated to the "three martyrs" and to the liberation of the prelate.

The dynamic of the kidnapping, during which three persons were killed, and the "difficult conditions" posed - as local sources tell AsiaNews - lead to the conclusion that this is not simply a matter of criminals interested in ransom.  There are fears over the health of the bishop, who needs to take medicines each day.  His voice has not been heard since the kidnapping, nor are there any proofs that he is still alive.  "At the next contact that we have with the kidnappers", sources close to the negotiations say, "we will demand to speak with Archbishop Rahho".  In a press conference yesterday in Tikrit, General Mark Hertling, the commander of U.S. forces in northern Iraq, spoke about the case.  According to the official, it is not clear who is behind the kidnapping of Archbishop Rahho, but it is not out of the question that al-Qaeda in Iraq is responsible.  The general says that the group has reformed in Mosul and in other areas of the province of Nineveh after being dismantled in Baghdad and Anbar, and that now it may need money in order to reorganise.

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