Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq sentenced to death over slain archbishop

The Iraqi Government says that a leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq is to be executed for the death of a Chaldean Catholic archbishop.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said that Al-Qaeda leader Ahmed Ali Ahmed, also known as Abu Omar, was sentenced on Sunday by the Iraqi Central Criminal Court, reports the Associated Press.

Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, the second-most senior Catholic cleric in Iraq, was found in a shallow grave not long after he was abducted as he left a Mass in the northern city of Mosul.

His abduction was the latest in a string of attacks on Iraq's tiny Christian community in the past year, and has thrown their future into further uncertainty. Many Christians in the country feel the attack was part of a deliberate drive on the part of extremist Muslims to drive Christians out of Iraq.

Father Emanuel Youkhana of Christian Aid Program Nohadra Iraq said at the time of the Archbishop's death that he expected more Christian families would now flee Mosul.

"Within the last two or three months, the church is attacked and then the bishop is kidnapped, so how can people save their confidence?

He added: "There are some Muslims that want to put Christians out of Mosul. So through these criminals, they try to intimidate the relationship between Muslims and Christians."

Chaldean Catholics are an Eastern-rite denomination and make up the largest group among Iraq's less than 1 million Christians.