By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
KIRKUK, IRAQ (BosNewsLife)– Iraqi Christians and Muslims on Tuesday, May 31, prayed for an end to violence and released doves “for peace” in the northern city of Kirkuk, where police found the mutilated body of a kidnapped Iraqi Christian, catholic news agency AsiaNews reported.
Ashur Issa Yaqub, a 29-year-old Chaldean Christian, was murdered after being abducted in this ethnically mixed, oil rich city, on May 14 by suspected militants of the al-Qaida terror group, police said.
His family was apparently unable to pay the demanded 100,000 dollars ransom money, in a region where the average daily wage for a construction worker hovers around 25,000 Iraqi dinars ($21).
“A police patrol found the body of the young Christian man, his head was almost completely cut off,” said Kirkuk provincial police chief Major General Jamal Taher Bakr in published remarks, adding that he believed al-Qaida insurgents were to blame for the gruesome killing.
Provincial health chief Sadiq Omar Rasul confirmed the details, and said the body “carried traces of torture and the bites of dogs”.
While murders are not uncommon in this turbulent nation, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako stressed that kidnappers “don’t usually torture and kill this way”.
Yaqub, whose last name is also spelled as Yacoub, is survived by his wife and three children.
Church leaders say Iraqi Christians have been targeted in a series of attacks over the past few months,after a hostage-taking situation by an al-Qaeda affiliated group in a Baghdad church left some 60 people dead. Most of those killed were Christian worshipers, along with a few security personnel, Christians and officials said at the time.
At Tuesday’s inter-religious service for peace, following Yaqub’s murder, Christians and Muslims also remembered a Muslim police officer who was killed along with 27 others on May 16, AsiaNews explained.
Security forces have been frequent targets of attacks by insurgents in Iraq.
The latest violence comes at a time when hundreds of thousands of minority Christians have already been uprooted by attacks, according to church groups.
Many fled to northern Iraq and neighboring nations. (With reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).