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08 April 2009

Five Christians killed as Kirkuk archbishop questions US withdrawal

IRAQ_-_sako_perplesso.jpgMonsignor Sako warns that US troop pullout is likely to plunge the country in a “civil war.” Between 31 March and 4 April five Christians are murdered in Kirkuk, Baghdad and Mosul. The prelate calls on the faithful to pray during Holy Week so “that the blood of our martyrs may restore peace.”

Kirkuk (AsiaNews) – The US troop pullout is creating a “vacuum’ that could end up in “civil war” and “Iraq’s division”, said Mgr Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk, as he confirmed the death of five Iraqi Christians killed in late March and early April.

Iraq’s “ethnic and religious groups have not become truly reconciled and the security situation remains fragile,” the archbishop said. “The Army and local police are not able to maintain law and order in the country,” he added. For this reason, the departure of US troops could “lead to further violence,” a view made the more cogent by the recent spate of killings in the Christian community

Sabah Aziz Solaiman, 71, was killed during a robbery on the morning of 31 March in Kirkuk. He was murdered in his own home in cold blood after bandits had broken in and taken everything of value on which they could lay their hands. His wife was spared the same fate because she had just gone to work.  

On 1 April Nimroud Khodir Moshi was gunned down in front of his restaurant in Baghdad’s neighbourhood of Mashtal. His murderers then fled the scene without leaving a trace.

The next day two sisters, 47 and 60 years of age respectively, were killed in the al-Dora neighbourhood, also in the capital.

Finally, the latest deadly incident took place in al-Madida in Mosul, when Abdul Aziz Elias Aziz, an electrical generator repairman, was shot to death in front of his workshop.

For the archbishop of Kirkuk these tragic events are cause for concern. Such violence could drive even more Christians into exile and fuel the “never-ending” exodus that is threatening the 2,000-year old community. Moreover, as many Christians flee, those who do remain find themselves in greater danger.

“As Holy Week begins, let us pray for peace and stability in Iraq,” said Bishop Sako. “Let us pray that the blood of our martyrs may restore peace. The Crucified and Risen Christ calls upon us to persevere and maintain our presence and witness.”

Church sources in Mosul recently warned AsiaNews that Christians are increasingly in danger of attacks.

“The community is being targeted by organised crime groups,” a Chaldean Catholic bishop said. “They are going after Christians because of their commercial activities, attracted by the money and wealth the latter have built up in a lifetime of toil and sweat.”

In the past “these thugs were covered and protected by al-Qaeda.”

Now that the “ideological and confessional” aspect has faded away, “ordinary criminals and organised crime are rearing their head, drawn by money, ready to kill in cold blood.”

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