Syriac Orthodox Priest Killed at Baghdad Home
- Christian Priest Killed at Baghdad Home
By STEPHEN FARRELL
Published: April 6, 2008
BAGHDAD A Christian priest was shot dead outside his home in
Baghdad on Saturday by attackers who used a pistol with a silencer,
witnesses said. His wife, they said, who stood near him, did not
realize he had been shot until well after he had fallen.
The priest, Faiz Abdel, who was known as Father Youssef, was the
second senior Syrian Orthodox priest to be killed this year. And
since the 2003 invasion, church officials say, about 40 percent of
the denomination, the country's second-largest Christian group, have
fled their homes.
Father Youssef, 49, was shot shortly before noon as he and his wife
returned home from a market in the Unity District of east Baghdad.
Friends and officials at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral, just around
the corner from his house, said the cleric's wife had just left the
car and was walking across the driveway to the house when he was hit
by three or four bullets to the chest and shoulder as he went to
close the gate. The gunmen escaped.
As mourners gathered outside the gate of the priest's home,
Archbishop Severius Hawa, Primate of the Diocese of Baghdad and
Basra, paid tribute to "our son, the martyr."
Speaking from the heavily barricaded cathedral, Archbishop Hawa
said: "This tragedy came as a surprise to us because we did not
receive any threat. He was still in his religious garments so we
believe they followed him from the market to his house and killed
him. The most important point is that he was killed because he was a
But the archbishop said the "hand of the devil" was directed at all
Iraqi sects, Muslim and Christian alike.
"Educated people, scientists, those who are working for the benefit
of the country are all targeted," he said. "If we lose one from our
sect, 100 will be lost from other sects."
Mourners said that though Father Youssef appeared to have been
singled out because of his distinctive black robes, many of the
threats and attacks were by criminal gangs demanding money under the
pretext of being Islamic fundamentalists.
"I had to move out of my house in Dora a year and a half ago because
I received two letters threatening to kill my son," said Abu Noor,
59. "I paid them $900, and nothing happened."
"All educated people are targeted," he said. "It is the fault of the
"When they discharged the army, everything was lost," he continued,
referring to the decision by the American occupation authority to
dismiss the entire Iraqi Army in 2003. "These people had no work and
no money to live, so of course they will go into gangs. And a weak
government with no police detectives, how can they manage?"
The invasion had caused only harm for Iraq's Christians, he said.
"I heartily believe that we were living better under the old regime.
No one could threaten the Christians then."
Father Youssef's murder follows the death of Archbishop Paulos Faraj
Rahho, the leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Mosul, whose
body was found buried in the northern city last month after gunmen
kidnapped him in February.
Hours before the killing on Saturday, a bomb hidden inside a minibus
carrying early morning commuters killed three people and wounded 13
on nearby Palestine Street, the police said. The victims were mainly
day laborers who travel into central Baghdad from the mainly Shiite
eastern district of Sadr City.
In Diyala Province, four Kurdish police officers working as guards
at an oil installation were kidnapped and killed near the border
town of Khanaqin. The police said the four were stopped at a fake
checkpoint early in the morning, and their bodies were found at
Mudhafer al-Husaini contributed reporting from Baghdad, and Iraqi
employees of The New York Times from Baquba.