The men who have the fate of Msgr. Paulos Faraj Rahho, Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul in their hands since February 29th last, have raised the ransom and dictated “political conditions” for his release, according to AsiaNews sources in Iraq, close to mediators who are negotiating his safe return. Late yesterday afternoon another phone call was made. The group which holds the bishop hostage, used Msgr. Rahoo’s mobile phone to communicate, but has still given no proof of his wellbeing. "It almost seems as if his release -- anonymous sources in Mosul tell -- is of secondary importance in their demands and the conditions which they have imposed greatly complicate matters, leading us to think that they are not just simple criminals interested in money". Concern is increasing for the 67 year-old hostage who suffers ill health, for which he needs daily treatment.
The above is from Asia News' "Kidnappers of Mosul bishop, raise the ransom." Despite the above and the fact that February saw a rise in violence, Anne Flaherty's "US commander: Iraq violence down" (AP) reports:
The commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East says there has been a dramatic decrease of violence in Iraq, but such gains are not irreversible.
"By almost every measure, the security situation has improved significantly," said Adm. William Fallon in remarks prepared for a hearing Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Lying about that turned corner just around the corner again. Nancy A. Youssef's "Military worried violence will return as troops leave Iraq" (McClatchy Newspapers) contains the following:
Despite optimistic assessments that the buildup of U.S. troops has turned around the situation in Iraq, some American commanders and the soldiers who report to them fear that continuing to withdraw U.S. troops could create more instability.
Top commanders and ground troops said in interviews that a precipitous American withdrawal would undermine their security gains, and would lead to higher U.S. casualties and an uphill struggle if insurgents and militias were able to regain lost ground.
She notes Petraeus will testify to Congress in April (set for April 8th and 9th) but what's missing? It was all predicted. We'll go over it in today's snapshot.
Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was kidnapped Friday. From Reuters this morning:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Tuesday that securing the release of a Chaldean Catholic archbishop, kidnapped four days ago in a dangerous northern city, was a top priority.
Paulos Faraj Rahho, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul in northern Nineveh province, was abducted on Friday after he left a church where he had been leading prayers. Gunmen attacked his car, killing his driver and two guards.
"The prime minister has issued an order to 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," Maliki's office said in a statement.
But violence is 'down' and 'victory' just around the corner, right? The UN Observer offers this from Arab American Institute (AAI):
Sadly, this incident is evidence of a grave situation faced by most Iraqis since the U.S.-led invasion. The suffering of the entire Iraqi people is widespread, defining daily life in most areas of the country. This is due to the lack of a plan to secure the peace. While all Iraqis live in fear, the circumstances facing minority populations is worse. With no political factions or large private militias to protect them, Iraq's embattled minorities are at the mercy of their environment. As the abduction of Archbishop Paulos and the murder of his colleagues show, when there is no security, there is too little mercy.
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