(Photo: Reuters / Ako Rasheed)
A Christian man kidnapped by insurgents and held to ransom for $100,000 has been found dead.
The body of Ashur Issa Yaqub was found by police in Kirkuk, the oil-rich city he was snatched from over the weekend.
The 29-year-old Chaldean Christian and father of three was a construction worker in the city.
His abductors, believed to be linked to al-Qaida, killed him when his family members failed to hand over a $100,000 ransom for his release.
Kirkuk provincial police chief, Major General Jamal Taher Bakr blamed the murder on al-Qaida-linked insurgents.
He was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying, “A police patrol found the body of the young Christian man. His head was almost completely cut off.”
The provincial health chief, Sadiq Omar Rasul, said that the body showed signs of torture.
The murder will be troubling news for Iraq’s minority Christian community, which faces frequent attacks at the hands of extremists.
Human rights groups fear that radical Muslims are attacking Christians as part of a wider agenda to eradicate them completely from Iraq.
Last October, 58 Christians were killed when al-Qaida-linked militants forced their way into a church in Baghdad and opened fire on the congregation.
The Christian population has shrunk dramatically since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 when there were an estimated 1.4 million Christians. Today, the population has decreased to less than half.