Iraq Militants Kill Christian Official

Thursday, February 8, 2007

By BosNewsLife News Center

BAGHDAD, IRAQ (BosNewsLife) -- A high profile official from Iraq's Assyrian Christian community and former deputy director of Iraqi Airways has been shot and killed by militants near his home, BosNewsLife monitored Thursday, February 8.

The Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) said Isaac Esho Alhelani was assassinated in the area of Mekanik last Wednesday, January 31, after he was stopped while driving with his wife. He was "forced out of the car and shot twice before the assassins fled with his" vehicle, AINA said.

The news agency quoted his children in Australia as saying that their father was taken to a hospital in Baghdad, but that the hospital "did not have the resources or medication to treat his serious wounds."

He was later flown by helicopter to the city of Arbil where he died, AINA said. His body was reportedly taken by car to the city of Kirkuk, the place of his birth, for burial by his wife and sister.


Isaac was a graduate from an aircraft engineering school in Scotland in the early 1960's where he studied under a scholarship from the Iraqi Government. When he returned, Alhelani was appointed as an aircraft engineer in Iraqi Airways, Iraq's largest airliner, and later became it deputy director.

Isaac, who was 64, retired in December 2006. He leaves behind his second wife in Iraq and four children from his first marriage. Three of the children, his daughter and two sons, live in Australia; his youngest son is in Syria where he escaped to from Baghdad after allegedly being threatened with kidnapping.

The murder of Alhelani has underscored growing concerns among Iraqi Christians about their future amid growing sectarian strife. Several Christians, including church leaders, have been killed or kidnapped in recent months. Thousands of believers have fled and the country has currently about 450,000 Christians, down from about 750,000 thousand when the war began in 2003. Muslim militants often view Christians as close to the US-led troops in Iraq. Christians are also kidnapped by militants for money reasons as many of them are enterpreneurs, Christian rights groups say.


In other incidents on Wednesday, February 7, a United States Marine transport helicopter crashed in flames in a field northwest of Baghdad, killing all seven people aboard, military officials said. It was the fifth US aircraft lost in less than three weeks, amid fears insurgents have been changing tactics.

In a statement posted on an extremist Web site, an al-Qaida-linked group, the Islamic State in Iraq, claimed it shot down the helicopter, which it described as a Chinook — an Army helicopter which resembles a Sea Knight.

Earlier this week a suicide bomber killed 135 people in the deadliest single bombing in Iraq since the 2003 war, driving a truck laden with one ton of explosives into a market in a mainly Shi'ite area of Baghdad.

The blast, which Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki blamed on Saddam Hussein supporters and other Sunni militants, shattered fruit and vegetable stalls, caved in shop fronts and left the smashed bodies of shoppers strewn in the street, eyewitnesses said. (With reports from Iraq).

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