26 missionaries killed

Vatican City - Twenty-six people involved in missionary work, including a bishop, were slain in 2005, almost twice as many as the year before, say reports.

Fides, the Vatican's missionary news agency, said many of the murders were robbery attempts or other assaults that were often carried out in poor areas.

Fides said the victims were one bishop, 20 priests, two members of religious orders, two nuns and one lay missionary.

The highest number of casualties per country took place in Colombia, where four priests and one nun were killed.

Eight people were killed in Africa, including 76-year-old Bishop Luigi Locati, who was shot to death in Kenya in July.

The list also included two priests killed in Europe - one in Brussels and one in Moscow - who worked with immigrants and the homeless.

Fides said its list included "not only missionaries in the strict sense of the word, but all church staff who have been killed in a violent way or who have sacrificed their lives aware of the risks they were running".

Fides said the 2005 tally was nearly twice that of 2004, although it didn't provide an exact figure.

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