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WikiLeaks: 2009-10-19: 09BAGHDAD2812: Kidnappings of Iraqi Christians Raises Concerns

by WikiLeaks. 09BAGHDAD2812: October 19, 2009.

Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 09:51 AM UT


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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
09BAGHDAD2812 2009-10-19 12:33 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
DE RUEHGB #2812/01 2921233
P 191233Z OCT 09
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 002812 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/12/2019 
Classified By: Acting DCM Gary A. Grappo for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
1. (C) SUMMARY: A series of high profile kidnappings of Iraqi 
Christians over the past several months in Mosul, Kirkuk, and 
Baghdad have raised concerns amongst Christian leaders that 
the community is being deliberately targeted by criminal 
gangs.  Whether the kidnappings are politically motivated has 
become a source of debate amongst Church leaders.  As a 
result of the kidnappings, a small group of families has 
recently fled Kirkuk and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have 
increased their security profile within that city.  END 
Violence and Kidnapping 
2. (C) Over the past several weeks, Iraqi Christian leaders 
have expressed growing concern that criminal gangs have 
targeted their community for kidnappings in order to secure 
large ransom payments.  On September 28, Father Ragheed 
Georges Hermiz of the Roman Catholic Church told Poloff that 
the Christian community had witnessed 14-15 kidnapping 
incidents over the past six months.  Hermiz said that most of 
those kidnapped were released after a ransom payment was 
made, but that they were generally tortured while in 
captivity.  Hermiz cited three specific incidents that he 
knew about from Baghdad including those of Rosa Khaldoun, a 
65-year old women who was killed by her assailants, Salem 
Attar, a 31-year old who was kidnapped and released after a 
ransom was paid, and Ahmed Salim, a personal friend of his 
who was kidnapped and held for 15 days during which he was 
starved and had his hands broken. 
3. (SBU) In Mosul, press reports indicated and PRT contacts 
confirmed that a Christian doctor named Mahasin Bashir was 
kidnapped from her home on September 27 and held for one day 
and then released when a $40,000 ransom was paid.  On 
September 11, Hikmat Sayid a Christian who had been kidnapped 
in late August was released.  On September 3, the body of 
Salem Barjjo, a 60-year old Christian businessman kidnapped 
in early August in Mosul was found after his family was 
unable to pay the demanded ransom.  In Kirkuk, a Christian 
doctor, Sameer Gorgees was kidnapped on August 18 and held 
for nearly a month before being released on September 16 
after his family paid a $100,000 ransom.  Another Christian, 
Sabah Daoud Sulayman, was killed on August 18 attempting to 
stop the kidnapping.  During his captivity, Gorgees was badly 
beaten and remains hospitalized.  On October 4, a 55-year old 
Christian nurse Imad Elias Abdul Karim was kidnapped and then 
killed a day later, prompting the Chaldean Archbishop of 
Kirkuk Louis Sako to state publicly that the recent 
kidnappings were politically motivated. 
The ISF Responds as Emigration Begins 
4. (C) As a result of the recent kidnappings, approximately 
23 Christian families have left Kirkuk over the past three 
weeks, with some departing for neighboring countries and 
others reportedly heading north to the relative safety of the 
Kurdistan Region.  (Note: Christian leaders estimate the size 
of their community in Kirkuk at 10,000 persons.  End note.) 
In response, the Deputy Commander of Iraqi Police in Kirkuk 
General Tourhan told PRT officer that additional security has 
been provided to the church in Kirkuk and that patrols have 
been increased in Christian areas, but that protection of the 
community was difficult because the families were dispersed 
in numerous mixed neighborhoods and because the community had 
made no specific requests to bolster their safety.  Tourhan 
Qmade no specific requests to bolster their safety.  Tourhan 
stated that an investigation was underway into the recent 
kidnappings, but that there were currently no leads to 
pursue.  Tourhan opined that the motive of the kidnappers was 
financial rather than political and that they targeted 
Christians because they were perceived to be affluent. 
Similarly, the Assyrian Archbishop of Kirkuk, Mar Narsay, 
told Poloff on September 13 that while violence in Kirkuk was 
worse in 2009 than in previous years, that it was criminally, 
rather than politically, motivated.  In Ninewah, as a result 
of the kidnappings and of car bombs in August and September 
that targeted ethnic minority communities, some Christian 
villages have established their own security patrols and 
neighborhood watch efforts. 
Ambassador Engages with Cardinal Delly 
5. (C) On October 9, Ambassador Hill met with the Patriarch 
of the Chaldean Church, Cardinal Emmanuel Delly, to express 
BAGHDAD 00002812  002 OF 002 
concern about the plight of Christians in Kirkuk and Ninewah. 
 During the meeting, Cardinal Delly did not comment on the 
specific topic of kidnappings, but rather expressed concern 
more generally about the need for more economic development 
and better services for Christian areas in the north.  The 
Cardinal also made the point that the biggest threat to the 
Christian community in Iraq was not violence, but the ease 
with which Iraqi Christians were allowed to claim refugee 
status in Europe and the United States.  Cardinal Delly 
expressed similar sentiments with Embassy Vatican Poloff on 
September 25 stating that there was no organized persecution 
of Christians in Iraq (reftel). 
6. (C) COMMENT: The phenomenon of kidnapping for ransom, as 
well as high profile robberies, has been increasing 
throughout Iraq over the course of the past year, most likely 
due to poor economic conditions, a weak security environment, 
and a willingness of victims' families to pay ransom.  While 
hard data remains elusive, the Embassy has received numerous 
anecdotal reports that criminal gangs are targeting affluent 
Iraqis and their children, regardless of their religious or 
sectarian affiliation.  For their part, prominent Church 
leaders are divided over whether the kidnappings are 
political/sectarian or criminal.  END COMMENT. 


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