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Source: U.S. is sent severed fingers of Iraq kidnap victims

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: FBI says DNA checks out as victims'; source says DNA came from fingers
  • Death toll from Baghdad parked car bomb rises to 15; 65 injured
  • Kidnapped archbishop found dead in Iraq
  • Priest in Baghdad says unclear if archbishop was killed or died of illness
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(CNN) -- The U.S. military in Iraq recently received the severed fingers of five men kidnapped in Iraq more than a year ago, a law enforcement source told CNN.


Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paul Faraj Rahho poses near the Vatican in 2007.

The FBI would confirm only that it received "DNA evidence" in relation to its ongoing investigation into the kidnappings of five Americans and an Austrian co-worker seized in southern Iraq.

"We understand this is a very difficult time for the families and discussing this matter further in the media is not appropriate," an FBI statement said.

The U.S. military in Iraq received the fingers last month and immediately sent DNA material to the FBI's laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, the law enforcement source said.

FBI spokesman Debra Weierman said the bureau confirmed the DNA of Americans Jonathon Cote, 25; Paul Reuben, 41; Joshua Munns, 25; and Ronald Withrow, 40, as well as Austrian Bert Nussbaumer, 26.

Reuben's brother, Patrick, told The Associated Press that the FBI notified the family that "the fingers were confirmed to be those of the hostages."

Patrick Reuben told AP that while the news about the fingers was "shocking," the first reports the family got were "much more serious than that. Later on we found that it was fingers that were recovered and that the DNA confirmed it was the hostages."

Paul Reuben, Cote, Munns and Nussbaumer were kidnapped in November 2006 during an ambush in the southern Iraq town of Safwan, a Sunni Arab city in a predominantly Shiite area.

All four men work for the Kuwait-based Crescent Security Group, which handles convoy escort duties.

Withrow, 40, a computer specialist with JPI Worldwide, was seized in January 2007 near Basra.

A group calling itself the National Islamic Resistance in Iraq: The Farqan (Quran) Brigades released a video a month after the November 2006 kidnappings, claiming responsibility for their abduction and showing the four men in good condition.

Meanwhile, a Christian archbishop kidnapped in northern Iraq last month was found dead on Thursday, according to a Nineveh province official.

Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paul Faraj Rahho's body was found near the town of Mosul, where he and three companions were ambushed by gunmen on February 29.

The archbishop's driver and two security guards were killed in the ambush. Investigators believe the archbishop may have been shot at that time, the Nineveh deputy governor said.

Nineveh Deputy Gov. Khasro Goran, in Mosul, told CNN that the kidnappers had been in touch with the church and the relatives and wanted to be paid a ransom for the archbishop's release. The contacts ended a few days ago. Video Watch site where archbishop was kidnapped »

He said the apparent kidnappers had contacted relatives on Thursday and told them the body was in the eastern part of town. Relatives and authorities went to the location and found the body, which had gunshot wounds.

However, the Catholic news agency in Italy, SIR, quoted Msgr. Shlemon Warduni in Baghdad as saying the abductors told church authorities that "Msgr. Rahho was very ill."

"We do not know yet whether he died because of his unstable health or if he has been killed. The abductors only told us he had died," Warduni said.

Christians are a tiny fraction of Iraq's population, but insurgents have targeted their religious sites and leaders in recent years.

Chaldean is a form of Aramaic, spoken at the time of Jesus. The Chaldeans converted to Christianity in the first century A.D., and the Chaldean branch of Christianity has been in Iraq since then. It is part of the Roman Catholic Church.

In Baghdad on Thursday, at least 15 people died and 65 others were wounded when a parked car bomb detonated in a busy commercial area, the Interior Ministry said. Video Watch wreckage from Baghdad car bomb »

The bomb went off in a parking lot in the Bab al-Shurj commercial area, where many DVD and CD stores sell PC games and movies.

Also Thursday, a correspondent for al-Mowaten (The Citizen), a Baghdad newspaper, was killed in a drive-by shooting, an official with the Ministry of Interior told CNN.

The official said the correspondent, Qassim Abdul-Hussein al-Iqabi, was driving in the Karrada district in central Baghdad when he was killed.

A soldier was killed and 10 people were injured near Kirkuk when a suicide car bomb struck an Iraqi army checkpoint in the town of Rashad, a Kirkuk police official told CNN.

Another two people were killed and seven wounded when a bomb exploded at the office of a local anti-insurgent group in Zab, 60 kilometers (37 miles) southwest of Kirkuk.

Six of those wounded were members of the Awakening Council. Such groups are predominantly Sunni and oppose al Qaeda in Iraq. They are backed by the United States.

U.S. troops killed an Iraqi girl when they fired a warning shot near a woman who they thought was acting suspiciously along a dangerous stretch of road north of Baghdad, the military said Thursday.

The troops were clearing out roadside bombs in an area of Diyala province that has been the site of several attacks in the past, Maj. Brad Leighton told CNN.

They noticed a woman who appeared to be signaling to someone while the soldiers were in the area, the military said.


The soldiers fired a warning shot into a berm. Later, they found a young girl, about 10 years old, behind the berm with a bullet wound, Leighton said.

The girl died en route to a medical facility. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Carol Cratty, Mohammed Tawfeeq, Jennifer Deaton and Jonathan Wald contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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