Iraqi police hunt for kidnapped archbishop

MOSUL, Iraq (AFP) — Security forces fanned out across the northern Iraqi city of Mosul searching for a Chaldean Catholic archbishop kidnapped after a shootout, police said on Saturday.

A special police team tightened security “especially around the Al-Nur district,” said a senior police official in Mosul, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Faraj-Farraj Rahhu, the archbishop of Mosul, was kidnapped after a shootout in Mosul’s eastern Nur district late on Friday. Two bodyguards and his driver were killed.

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

At the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI condemned the kidnapping as an “atrocious act which touches the whole of the church” in Iraq, and expressed his “bitterness,” a statement from the Vatican said.

It called the kidnapping a premeditated attack.

Iraq’s Christians, with the Chaldean rite by far the largest community, were said to number as many as 800,000 before the US-led invasion nearly five years ago. The number today is believed to have dropped to half that figure.