Page last updated at 13:53 GMT, Saturday, 5 April 2008 14:53 UK

Iraqi priest shot dead in Baghdad

An armed man guards the entrance to a Baghdad church, 3 February, 2008
Armed guards posted outside Iraqi churches have not deterred attackers

An Iraqi priest has been killed in a drive-by shooting by unidentified gunmen in central Baghdad.

Fr Adel Youssef, an Assyrian Orthodox priest, was gunned down near his home in the capital's Karrada district.

His death follows the discovery of the body of Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul last month, two weeks after he was kidnapped.

Iraqi Christians repeatedly complain of being targeted by Islamist militants, and many have fled Iraq since 2003.

Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, head of the Chaldean Catholics - Iraq's largest Christian denomination - said Iraqi Christians were shocked by Saturday's killing.

Fleeing Christians

"We are praying and asking God for security in Iraq," Cardinal Delly told Reuters.

What can we do? How many people have been killed?
Cardinal Emmanuel Delly
Chaldean patriarch

The cardinal said the Church was "ready to forgive the people who committed these crimes for the sake of the single family of Iraq".

"What can we do? How many people have been killed? Christians, Muslims, Sabaens, people who have dedicated themselves to serving this country but they are killed."

Many Christians have fled as a result, and their number, believed to have been around 800,000 five years ago, has dwindled since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Shortly after the murder of Archbishop Rahho, Pope Benedict XVI had issued an anguished plea for Iraq's Christians, and called for an end to bloodshed in the country.

Elsewhere in Baghdad on Saturday, a bomb exploded on a minibus, killing three people.

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