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Christian father and sons killed in their Mosul home

.- The persecution of Christians in Iraq escalated on Tuesday, as three relatives of a Syro-Catholic priest were killed in their own home in the city of Mosul.

Bishop Georges Casmoussa of Mosul told SIR news agency that unknown men entered the home of the father and two brothers of Fr. Mazen Ishoa, in the neighborhood of Hay Al Sahaon on Feb. 23. After the house was broken into, the priest's father and two young brothers were murdered.

Fr. Ishoa was previously abducted in 2007 and later released. The latest reports do not mention anything about the fate of Fr. Ishoa.

The killings come amid increasing chaos in Mosul as targeted attacks against Christians continue to rise.

Following a funeral service for the three victims this morning in Karakosh, Chaldean Bishop Emil Shimoun Nona told SIR that “Fear is great – it is the first time Christians are killed in their own homes. There are many families that are leaving the city, at least until the election of March 7th.”

Pope Benedict, who is continually receiving updates from the Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq, responded on Wednesday to news of the murders with “deep sorrow.”

The Holy See had urged respect and protection for Iraqi Christians in a January letter to country's prime minister, yet the violence against Christians in the city has continued.

Bishop Casmoussa called the current circumstances in Mosul a “situation that risks getting worse in the run-up to March 7th.” “We hope that the after-election period may be calmer and violence may decrease,” he added. “But that’s not very likely for the moment.”

In response to yesterday’s murders, Church leaders have organized a protest on Feb. 24. “The community will meet for a peaceful march in four areas of Mosul for a peaceful protest,” Bishop Casmoussa explained to SIR. “There will be no Masses in the city’s churches. This is done to press the institutions into taking care of the citizens’ security.”

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