Iraqi police are searching for the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul after he was abducted by gunmen in the northern Iraqi city. As Daniel Schearf reports from the nearby city of Irbil, Iraqi Christians are routinely targeted by Muslim extremists.
Iraqi police say the Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was taken Friday night shortly after he left Mass.
Gunmen stopped the Archbishop's car and killed the driver and two other passengers. Pope Benedict XVI has appealed for immediate release.
It was not the first time a Christian leader was abducted in Mosul. In 2005 Mosul's Syrian Catholic Archbishop was taken at gun point. He was released a day later unharmed.
Other church leaders were not so lucky. Last year a priest and three deacons in Mosul were gunned down as they were leaving Mass.
Romeo Hakari is head of the Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party, a Syrian Christian political party. He says Iraq's Christian minorities have always been subject to persecution from
Muslim majority. "As Christian syrians here in this country, we have been tortured, killed, dismissed from our land," he said.
Since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq more than four years ago, there has been an increase in violence against religious minorities.
Islamic extremists and criminal gangs have targeted Iraqi Christians in particular, accusing them of being crusaders in league with the U.S. led coalition troops.
Their churches and businesses are often bombed or attacked and many have been abducted for ransom or simply murdered.
Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled the country. There are less than a million Christians in Iraq. The Chaldean Catholics are the largest group and, although autonomous from Rome, they recognize the Pope's authority.