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Murderers said to have told contractor to fire Chaldean because he was Christian

5/18/2011 Iraq (Compass Direct News) – A pastor in Kirkuk, Iraq told Compass that sources close to a Christian reportedly kidnapped, tortured and murdered by al Qaeda over the weekend said the kidnappers had pressured his employer to fire him because he was a Christian.

The body of Chaldean Christian Ashur Issa Yaqub was found on Monday (May 16) with marks of severe torture and mutilation. He had worked as a construction worker from the northeastern city of Kirkuk, and al Qaeda members had demanded $100,000 for his release, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“It seems that the contractor that Ashur was working for was told he had to fire Ashur because he was Christian, but he refused,” said the pastor, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Because the contractor was rich and they couldn’t do anything to him, they kidnapped Ashur, and unfortunately they killed him.” 

When a police patrol found his body on Monday (May 16), his head was nearly severed off, according to the AFP.

The 29-year-old Yaqub, whose surname is also spelled Jacob, is survived by his wife and three children.

Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako told Compass by phone from Rome that he was shocked to get the news of Yaqub’s death. While noting that the murder was unusually brutal, the archbishop said it was probably the work of criminal opportunists trying to make money, and that Yaqub was not necessarily targeted as a Christian.

“It was horrible,” Sako said. “When I heard it, I was ripped. He was kidnapped for money. That happens, but kidnappers don’t usually torture and kill this way. This wasn’t human …this is like they were beasts. They killed him immediately to scare the people of Kirkuk and send the message that if they are kidnapped they have to pay.”

Yaqub’s body bore marks of dog bites and torture; his legs and arms were tied together and his clothes were covered in blood, according to the AFP. His eyes were gouged out, his ears were cut off and his face was skinned, according to the Assyrian International News Agency.

“This was exceptional, but there are other cases where they killed them or left them half dead, like Sameer the doctor,” Sako said, referring to the case of a Christian, 55-year-old Sameer Gorgees Youssif, who was kidnapped and released in 2009. “They paid, but they had tortured and hit him.”

In Kirkuk another Christian, Iyad Daoud, was kidnapped on Feb. 14 but was freed after ransom was paid for him, according to Iraqi online publication Assafir Press.

Noting that Christians are not the only victims of kidnapping, Sako said Muslims and other nationals living in Kirkuk have been abducted. Although he said he didn’t believe the attack targeted Yaqub because he was a Christian, he said Christians were very shaken by the attack, and he feared that many would leave the city as a result.

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