"Reports reached us that there were talks between the kidnappers and relatives of the kidnapped archbishop … we heard that a ransom demand reached $1 million," explained Brigadier-General Khaled Abdul Sattar, the police spokesman for Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital, in published remarks. Previous reports had suggested a ransom as high as $2.5 million.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki blamed the bishop’s death on al-Qaeda and stressed that his Shia-led government was committed to protecting Christians, who make up about three per cent of the population in mostly Muslim Iraq. "The perpetrators of this horrible crime will not run from the hand of justice," Maliki pledged.
Police said it was not clear whether Rahho, 65, had been killed or died of other causes. He appeared to have been dead a week and had no bullet wounds, police at the morgue in Mosul told reporters. He was dressed in black trousers and a blue shirt.
Rahho, the archbishop of Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, was abducted on February 29 after gunmen attacked his car and killed his driver and two guards. His human remains were found in an empty lot in eastern Mosul Thursday, March 13. He was buried Friday, March 14, in a village near Mosul. Grieving Christians wept and wailed as the archbishop’s coffin was carried down the streets, led by a church official carrying a wooden cross affixed with Rahho’s picture, witnesses said.
His death drew condemnation from the Vatican, United States President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki. Although the US military could not confirm the ransom, American commanders in northern Iraq have said the kidnappers may have wanted money. Church leaders also said that the militants demanded Christian support for an ongoing insurgency in the country.
Islamic militants have blamed Christians for supporting the US-led coalition, an argument used to attack Christian business, churches and individuals, rights groups say.
A number of Christian clergy have been kidnapped and killed and churches bombed in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion began. Among those kidnapped was also a former archbishop of Mosul, Basile Georges Casmoussa. He was abducted in 2005 but released after a day in captivity.
Many of Iraq’s estimated 750.000 Christians have the violence. (With reporting from Iraq).
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