BAGHDAD, Iraq (BP)–The U.S. military has confirmed that gunmen killed an American pastor when the taxi he was riding in was ambushed outside Baghdad.
John Kelley, 48, was pastor of Curtis Corner Baptist Church, an independent Baptist church in South Kingstown, R.I. He was traveling with about 10 other ministers who went to Iraq on a two-week trip to explore the possibility of starting a church there.
U.S. paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division learned of the Feb. 14 attack while they were patrolling in the town of Mahmudiyah, about 15 miles south of Baghdad, according to the Associated Press. They were told the Americans had been riding in a taxi when a white sedan pulled up alongside them and opened fire.
Three other men, including David Davis of Grace Bible Baptist Church in Vernon, Conn., and Kirk DiVietro of Grace Baptist Church in Franklin, Mass., were injured in the ambush and were being treated at an Iraqi hospital, soldiers were told.
Kelley, a former Marine, is survived by his wife and four children.
“Pastor Kelley was willing to give his life so that people would hear the message that Jesus had,” said Roland Vukic, a member of Kelley’s congregation, according to the Associated Press. “He was just that kind of man.”
The Boston Globe reported that Kelley’s wife, Jane, had received a bouquet of flowers her husband had arranged to be sent on Valentine’s Day; several hours later she was told of his death.