Iraqi PM increases efforts to release Archbishop

The Iraqi Prime Minister had ordered the country's security forces to step up efforts to secure the release of a kidnapped Chaldean Catholic archbishop.

Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was kidnapped last Friday in the northern city of Mosul after a deadly shootout in which three of his companions were killed.

News.com.au reports PM Nuri al-Maliki (pictured) has asked the interior minister and all security officials of Nineveh province to "follow the case and work very hard to release (Rahho) as soon as possible."

A huge ransom has been demanded by the kidnappers, however no-one has spoken to the Archbishop, Christianity Today reports, making it difficult to confirm he is still alive.

PM Maliki said that any attack "on the Christian community is an offence against all Iraqis".

"The Christian community is an essential part of Iraq. It can't be separated from the people and the country's civilisation," he said.

Iraqi forces in Mosul have fanned out to search for Rahho, whose abduction has been branded as "atrocious" by Pope Benedict.

Archbishop Rahho, seized while on his way home after holding Mass, was the latest in a long line of Christian clerics to be abducted in Iraq since the US-led invasion of March 2003.

SOURCE

PM steps up hunt for archbishop (News.Com.au 04/03/08)

Kidnappers Demand Huge Ransom for Iraqi Bishop (Christianity Today 04/03/08)

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