BAGHDAD The body of a Christian archbishop kidnapped last month was found in northern Iraq Thursday while in Baghdad, a car bomb exploded and killed 18 people.
Gunmen abducted Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho and killed three of his companions soon after they left Mass in the city of Mosul on Feb. 29. It was the latest in a series of attacks against Iraq's small Christian community.
Monsignor Shlemon Warduni, the auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, said the church in Mosul had received a phone call from the kidnappers on Wednesday telling them the archbishop was dead. They also told church officials where they could find the body.
The Chaldean church is an Eastern-rite denomination that recognizes the authority of the pope and is aligned with Rome. The Vatican said Pope Benedict XVI was "deeply saddened" by Rahho's death.
"We had all kept hoping and praying for his release," said Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi. "Unfortunately the most absurd and senseless violence keeps dogging the Iraqi people, and especially the small Christian community."
In Baghdad, the car bombing took place off a bridge in Tahrir Square, a district of clothing shops just outside the heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses the U.S. Embassy and much of the Iraqi government, a police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
The policeman and a hospital official said 18 people died. The hospital official said 57 others were injured.
There has been a resurgence of violence in Iraq's capital after several months of relative calm that followed an increase of U.S. forces last year.
There also has been a jump in U.S. military deaths in recent days. Twelve Americans have been killed in the past four days, bringing the overall U.S. military death toll since the start of the war to 3,987, according to an AP count.
The U.S. military said Thursday that soldiers had killed a young Iraqi girl after firing a warning shot at a woman who "appeared to be signaling to someone" along a road where several bombs had recently been found.
The shooting occurred Wednesday afternoon in the volatile Diyala province north of Baghdad. An exact location was not given in a military statement.
The girl appeared to be "around 10 years old," said Maj. Brad Leighton, a military spokesman.
In its statement, the military said that "coalition forces fired a warning shot into a berm near a suspicious woman who appeared to be signaling to someone while the soldiers were in the area. A young girl was found behind the berm suffering from a gunshot wound."
Leighton said preliminary reports indicated that soldiers did not believe the woman was a potential suicide bomber, but rather "they were afraid she was signaling to someone that the convoy was going by."
In other violence, five members of an Awakening Council were killed when gunmen attacked two separate checkpoints near Tikrit on Thursday, 80 miles north of Baghdad. Nine others were wounded.
Awakening Councils are made up of mostly Sunni fighters who have accepted U.S. backing to switch allegiances and fight al-Qaida in Iraq.
A suicide bomber also attacked an Awakening Council gathering in the village of Zab outside Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad. Three people were killed and seven others wounded in that attack.
Gunmen also killed a correspondent for a Baghdad newspaper. Qassim Abdul-Hussein al-Iqabi, 36, was shot while walking in Baghdad's largely Shiite Karradah neighborhood, police said.
Excluding al-Iqabi, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has recorded at least 127 journalists and 50 media support workers killed since the U.S.-led war began in March 2003.