Iraq: agreement to free kidnapped priests falls through

 Concerns are growing for the safety of two Catholic priests kidnapped in Iraq, after an agreement with their captors fell through. In a statement, Christian charity Middle East Concern (MEC) said: "It appears that agreement was reached for their release, leading to reports of their having been released. However, the kidnappers subsequently withdrew from the agreement and demanded a larger ransom." Father Pius Affas and Father Mazen Ishoa, both Iraqis, were kidnapped in Mosul on Saturday by an unknown group, and Pope Benedict XVI subsequently made an appeal for their release. Syrian Catholic Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa was involved in efforts to free Father Affas, who is in his 60s, and Father Ishoa, in his 30s. Father Affas is originally from Mosul, a bastion of the Sunni insurgency, while Father Ishoa is from a Christian village south of the city, the statement said. MEC said the two priests had received a letter two months ago warning them that the church would be attacked if they did not leave.