Iraqi leader Promises Hunt for Archbishop Rahho

In related news, Jordanian Prince El Hassan bin Talal condemned the kidnapping: “We condemn all acts of kidnapping and assassination as contrary to the basic precept of respect for human life and liberty. We are extremely saddened by the kidnapping of Archbishop Rahho and by any crimes committed against the Christian religious community in Iraq,” said the Jordanian prince.

Mosul, Mar. 4, 2008 ( – While Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki promised an all-out effort to secure the release of kidnapped Archbishop Paulos Faraj Raho, the prelate’s abductors contacted Church officials in Iraq with new demands that “complicate the case,” the AsiaNews service has reported.

“Any assault on Christians is an assault on all Iraqis,” the Iraqi prime minister said in a message to Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly. Al Maliki ordered troops to hunt for the gunmen who kidnapped the archbishop last Friday, February 29– killing three of the prelate’s companions, a driver and two bodyguards– in the assault.

The Misna news agency reported that the kidnappers had contacted the Syrian Catholic archbishop of Mosul, Basile Casmoussa– who was himself a kidnapping victim in 2005. The kidnappers, whose identity is still unknown, reportedly demanded a ransom and also set political conditions for the archbishop’s release. AsiaNews sources said that the political conditions– which they did not disclose– seemed to indicate that the kidnappers were not merely criminals interested in financial gain.

The kidnappers reportedly used Archbishop Raho’s cell phone to contact Church leaders with their demands. They did not provide any reassurance about the prelate’s physical condition. The archbishop is in poor health and requires regular medication. The kidnapping of the Chaldean archbishop– who was seized just after leading the Stations of the Cross in Mosul’s cathedral– occurred just after US troops conducted a military sweep of the area, targeted at eliminating Al Qaida forces around Mosul.