April 5, 2008 / 12:25 PM / 12 years ago

Christian priest gunned down in Baghdad

(Adds details, quotes and background)

By Aws Qusay

BAGHDAD, April 5 (Reuters) - Gunmen shot dead an Iraqi priest in a drive-by attack in central Baghdad on Saturday, police said, in the latest attack on Christians in the country.

The priest, Adel Yousif, was gunned down near his home in central Baghdad’s prosperous Karrada district.

Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, leader of Iraq’s largest Christian denomination, the Chaldean Catholics, told Reuters that Yousif was a member of the Syrian Orthodox church.

Delly said Iraqi Christians were shocked by the slaying, which follows the kidnap and murder of the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul and other attacks on Christians in recent months.

"We are praying and asking God for security in Iraq. What can we do?" Delly said. "How many people have been killed? Christians, Muslims, Sabaens, people who have dedicated themselves to serving this country but they are killed."

"We are ready to forgive the people who committed these crimes for the sake of the single family of Iraq," Delly said.

Iraq’s Christian minority has mainly tried to avoid being dragged into the sectarian violence that killed tens of thousands of Iraqis since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.

But churches and Christian clergy have been targeted, especially in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul.

The Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Farraj Rahho, was kidnapped on Feb. 29 by gunmen who killed his driver and two guards. The archbishop’s body was found two weeks later despite appeals for his freedom from Pope Benedict. (Writing by Peter Graff; editing by Sami Aboudi)

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