Child kidnapping on the rise in Iraq

 A spate of child kidnapping cases has hit Iraqi cities in recent weeks, according to reports received by Christian Aid staff in the region. Speaking from Amman in Jordan at a meeting of humanitarian agencies, Oliver Burch, Christian Aid's emergency programme manager for Iraq, said many Iraqis had told him of an alarming growth in crime, including kidnapping children for ransom. '" was told by the Patriarch of Assyrian Eastern Church, His Holiness Maredde II, that unemployment is the biggest problem and that the economic situation is pushing people into crime. His Holiness said kidnapping children and asking for a ransom from parents was becoming more widespread,'"said Mr Burch. "He told me that 20 children were recently found in a house in Baghdad. Many girls won't now be sent back to school due to parents' fears." Mr Burch said that he had received similar reports from other Iraqis at the conference. "I understand that it started in the city of Basra and has spread to Baghdad. Abu Marba - an Iraqi contractor working with Christian Aid partner the Middle East Council of Churches - told me of a gardener who works for his organisation whose daughter was kidnapped - so it's not restricted to the well off." Mr Burch added that the Iraqi police were not able to control the crime wave. "The police are not respected at all because they are associated with the Americans - who are increasingly resented in Iraq now. "Furthermore, the police are only lightly armed while criminals have more powerful weapons. Also, it is said that the police are easily bribed so it's difficult for people to take them seriously." According to Mr Burch, His Holiness Maredde II was very critical of the coalition for not providing security. He said: " The so-called liberators should at least provide security. They have made it possible for thieves to take anything. Nothing was done from the beginning to stop looting. Everyone now tends to stay at home. If you have a decent car, it could cost you your life."

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