Two Christians kidnapped, then killed in Iraq

Two Iraqi Christians were kidnapped then later killed by Islamic fundamentalists in Mosul within the span of a few days, a news agency with connections to Iraq has reported.

Tariq Qattan, a 65-year-old doctor, was recently kidnapped by a terrorist group. Then on Wednesday, news emerged that he had been killed, according to Assyrian International News Agency.

His family had reportedly paid around £10,000 in ransom money, but it was not enough to free the Christian man.

On the same day, news also was released about the kidnapping and murder of another Christian, Nafi Haddad. Nafi was kidnapped on Monday and it is unclear whether the captors demanded ransom money.

Kidnapping Christians for ransom money has unfortunately become a common occurrence in Iraq. Many Muslims kidnappers are motivated by the false notion that Christians have relatives living in Western countries that can send money for their release.

The pastor of St George's Anglican Church in Baghdad, one of the largest churches in Iraq, said that 36 of his members were kidnapped in a month during his testimony before the US Commission on International Religious Freedom in July 2007.

Earlier this year, Christians were shocked when Iraq's second most senior Catholic cleric was kidnapped and murdered. His body was found in March, two weeks after his disappearance.

The combined effect of church bombings, kidnappings, death threats, economic inequality and general insecurity have forced about half of Iraq's Christian population to flee the country since the US-led offensive in 2003.

There were about 1.2 million Christians in Iraq before the war, but now there are only about 600,000 remaining.

The minority Christian population, which makes up only about three per cent of Iraq's 26 million people, comprise nearly half of all the refugees leaving Iraq, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

In fear of the extinction of this population in Iraq, the country's Christians are urging the United States to support a plan to create an autonomous region in northern Iraq called the Ninevah Plains where Christians and other persecuted minorities can practise their faith, speak their language and work without fear of persecution.

The Nineveh Plains is the ancestral homeland of Assyrian Christians - the largest Christian group in Iraq - and is the area where thousands of Christians from the cities have resettled to escape persecution.

In 2007, the Iraqi Christian community suffered 47 deaths, 13 of them in Mosul. These include Father Ragheed Gani, murdered on June 3, and two other priests, according to AINI.