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ICC note: Abductions have forced Christians to organize their own security.

6/23/07 Mosul (AsiaNews) – The 3 teachers and 5 students kidnapped June 20th in the Niniveh Plain, North Iraq, as they travelled from Mosul to Qaraqosh, have been released. Their release took place yesterday morning in Mosul, but already later that evening, the internet news agency reported the sequester of yet another Christians, a young driver who worked between Alqosh, Mosul and Baghdad. Nadir Mansour Koja, this is the young man’s name, was on the road between the capital and Mosul when he was abducted. Nadir maintained his wife, 3 children, parents and two widowed sisters with his salary.

Sources from the local Christian community are convinced that the main aim of the sequesters is to extort money through ransom; but at the same time they also send out a strong message: “We can target you anywhere, even where you think you have found shelter”, in a clear reference to the idea of a safe haven for Christians in the Nineveh plains. An increasing number of Christians have migrated there in recent years from more dangerous areas such as Baghdad and Mosul, but now security here is under attack.

In Qaraqosh, close to Mosul, Christians do their best to organize their own security. The news agency Compass reports that the Syrian-Catholic leaders have set up a “guard” of about 1200 men, all volunteers, who patrol the village confines 24 hours a day, on 6 hour shifts. Armed men control all traffic into and out off the village, and sometimes accompany strangers on their business.

These recent abductions have forced the Syrian-Catholic Church to abandon an important initiative: a daily bus connection transporting university students to Mosul; it was on one of these buses that the 8 kidnapped Christians were travelling when they were kidnapped this week. A priest had declared that the initiative will be stopped, because it is an easy target for terrorists and for mercenary groups.