Kidnapped Iraqi priest: 'During the day I was a spiritual father, at night they tortured me'

Smoke rises as Shi'ite fighters and Islamic State militants clash in Baiji, north of Baghdad, October 18, 2015. Fighting has continued in the region since the Iraq invasion in 2003.Reuters

An Iraqi Catholic priest has described being kidnapped and tortured and having his church blown up in war-torn Iraq after the invasion in 2003.

In an interview with, Fr Douglas Bazi, who served in Baghdad parish during the US-led war, explains how Shiite militiamen held him for nine days and threatened to kill him after bundling him into the trunk of a car.

Fr Bazi describes the events after the invasion: "It was in the beginning of 2004, 2005. Early in 2006, they blew up my church in front of me...Another time, I was celebrating Mass. Normal Sunday. We sing all the Mass. I was singing Mass, and I realized ... I know that noise. The noise of rockets."

On his kidnapping, Fr Bazi says: "It was after the Sunday Mass, when I was going to visit friends and I was by myself. They put me in my car trunk. I don't know why they took me. When we arrived where they held their captives, they told me, 'We are giving you a blindfold and you have to tie it on your eyes. If you open your eyes, we will shoot you. We will put a bullet in your head.' One of them had hit me with his knee, in my face. When I woke, I realized that it was blood on my face. They took me inside the house and they were going, 'Think you got him? Did you bring him? The infidel?' They brought chains. They tied my hands. I spent nine days in this situation. Tied. Blind."

Extraordinarily, the priest describes how his captors wanted spiritual advice from him. "During the day, I was a spiritual father to my captors," he says. "They used to ask me for advice. One of them was always asking me about his wife. She's always demanding. At that point, I was still like, 'Okay, well show her you care, text her, tell her things like good morning. From time to time take care to message.' The same people, during the night, they called me 'infidel' and they beat me and they tortured me."

The torturers also asked Fr Bazi about the relationship between the US and the church. "They used to ask me all these questions about politics. Also about religion. For example, 'What is the relationship between church and America, America and the church?' As a Catholic priest, of course I don't have that information. They beat me a lot and they tortured me a lot."

In July 2013, Fr Bazi moved from Baghdad to Erbil, in Kurdistan, where he ministers to a congregation of 400 people.