Iraq, Middle East
Iraq has remained at the center of the U.S. war on terror with the Iraqi government and the coalition has battled Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and affiliated terrorist organizations. Meanwhile, insurgent groups have been fighting against Coalition Forces (CF), and militias and death squads have increasingly engaged in sectarian violence.
The Iraqi government has organized conferences involving tribal and religious leaders, politicians, and civil society organizations to counter support for terrorist organizations and to promote dialogue between Iraq’s ethnic and religious groups in an effort to decrease violence. Tribal leaders in Ramadi, a volatile city in Anbar province, have banded together and pledged to fight against AQI instead of the coalition.
Neighboring countries, specifically Iran, have continued to actively smuggling weapons, people, materials, and money to terrorist, insurgent and militia groups inside Iraq.
Challenges for Christians:
There have been reports of Islamic extremists kidnapping Christians, including at least nine priests, for ransom. On July 17, 2006, a Chaldean priest was kidnapped in Baghdad and released after two days. On August 15, 2006, a Chaldean priest was kidnapped in Baghdad. He was reportedly tortured and released after a month. On September 16, 2006, a Chaldean priest was kidnapped in Baghdad and released two days later. On October 11, 2006, Assyrian priest Father Paulos Iskender was kidnapped and beheaded in Mosul one week later. He was reportedly targeted in retaliation for statements that the Pope Benedict XVI made in September 2006. On November 19, 2006, a Chaldean priest was kidnapped in Baghdad. He was released after nine days. On November 26, 2006, Protestant clergyman Elder Munthir Al-Saqa from the National Presbyterian Church in Mosul was abducted after leading a Sunday Service at his church that day. He was found dead on November 29. The kidnappers reportedly demanded $1 million in ransom from ElderMunthir's family using his mobile telephone. On December 4, 2006, a Chaldean priest was kidnapped in Baghdad and released after six days. On May 19, 2007, a Chaldean priest was kidnapped in Baghdad and freed after two days. On June 6, 2007, Chaldean priest Hani Abdel Ahad and five other Christians were kidnapped in Baghdad. The five Christians were released after a day, while Father Hani was released in good condition on June 17, 2007. The Chaldean Church confirmed that the kidnappers demanded ransom but declined to comment on the amount. Christian leaders inside and outside of the country reported that members of their Baghdad community, especially in the district of Dora, received threat letters demanding that Christians leave or be killed.
Sources: 24-7 Prayer, Operation World, Wikipedia, Country Reports on Terrorism 2006, International Religious Freedom Report 2007, Open Doors, The World Factbook
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