Priest cut to pieces by ISIS militants as Mideast Christian clerics become targets

A woman prays near pictures of victims who were killed in an attack at the Syrian Catholic cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation, during Christmas eve in Baghdad, in this photo taken on Dec. 24, 2010.Reuters

Arab-Christian clergymen in the Middle East are now being targeted for abduction, torture and execution by radical Islamic groups, religious sources in the region revealed.

In one recent case, Islamic State militants kidnapped a priest and held him for ransom. Although the priest's family was able to deliver the ransom to the kidnappers, they still savagely chopped the poor priest to pieces, said John Newton, spokesperson for Catholic relief agency Aid to the Church in Need.

"I know of one priest who was kidnapped for two months ... they asked for a ransom of $120,000, which the family managed to raise and deliver. ... But hours later, the priest was killed and his body cut up, with pieces of him sent in a box to the family," Newton told Christian Post reporter Hermoine Macura.

Christians have become a form [of] currency in this tragedy," he said.

Christians are often being used as subjects of persecution to raise funds for terror activities and to sow fear among Christians in the Middle East and throughout the globe, he said.

Attempts to free abducted priests have been difficult as there is little information on the identities of the kidnappers or where the priests are being held hostage.

Last month, Father Dhiya Aziz, a Franciscan priest serving in northern Syria, was released after almost a week in the hands of alleged jihadist abductors who wanted to "profit on his release," reported The Telegraph.

Al-Nusra Jabhat, a group affiliated with al-Qaeda, has denied any involvement in the priest's kidnapping.

In April 2013, Syriac-Orthodox and Greek-Orthodox Metropolitans of Aleppo, Archbishops Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi, were taken on the road between Aleppo and the Turkish border.

The two were negotiating for the release of two other abducted priests, Michael Kayyal and Maher Mahfouz, who were kidnapped in February of the same year.

"No one knows who took the archbishops, nor what their fate was, but the two priests they were trying to free have since been executed," said Newton.

In 2006, Catholic priest Father Douglas Bazi was taken by Islamists who tortured him until a ransom was paid.

The priest had to endure a terrible ordeal in the hands of his abductors who struck his back, broke one of his legs, shot him, and punched his teeth out.

"We are Christian, so we are used to having our luggage always prepared. We always have to run away, escape from place to place," said Father Bazi.