Sunday, June 25, 2006
Group claims to kill 4 Russians in Iraq
CAIRO, Egypt - An al-Qaida-linked group posted a Web video Sunday showing the killings of three Russian embassy workers abducted earlier this month in Iraq. A fourth also was said to have been killed.
An accompanying statement by the Mujahedeen Shura Council, an umbrella organization linking seven Murder groups including al-Qaida in Iraq, said all four Russians had been killed. Russia's Foreign Ministry said it had not yet confirmed the hostages' deaths.
The 90-second video, posted on an Islamic Web site that frequently airs militant messages, showed the beheading of two blindfolded men and the shooting of a third.
In the footage, two men clad in black and wearing black ski masks shout "AllahuAkabar!" before beheading the first man. Then one militant appears standing over the decapitated body of a second victim lying in a pool of blood, with the head placed on top of the body.
The footage of the beheading victims shows a closed room with white walls. The shooting appears outdoors in what looked like an alley between buildings.
The footage was stamped with the logo of al-Qaida.
"God's verdict has been carried out on the Russian diplomats ... in revenge for the torture, killing and expulsion of our brothers and sisters by the infidel Russian government," the statement said.
The video begins with a verse from the Quran appearing in white letters on a black screen, and a voice reading "Those who aggress on you, you aggress on them."
One at a time, the four men appear on camera, staring ahead and speaking in Russian. Then the camera cuts to the killings.
Footage of the men speaking into the camera is dated June 13, but the footage of the killings is undated.
Four Russian embassy workers were abducted June 3 after an attack on their car in Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood. A fifth Russian was killed in the incident.
The captives include the embassy's third secretary, Fyodor Zaitsev, and three other staffers: Rinat Agliulin, Anatoly Smirnov and Oleg Fedoseyev.
In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it had not independently confirmed their deaths.
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our embassy in Iraq are using all methods and are continuing work to verify the information," ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said.
Moscow vehemently opposed the U.S.-led military campaign and has continued to keep its distance from Washington on the issue of Iraq. Four Russian workers were killed in ambushes in Iraq in 2004.
On Wednesday, the Mujahedeen Shura Council posted a statement on the Internet saying it had decided to kill the four Russians, prompting one hostage's sister, a Muslim, to make an impassioned plea for their freedom.
"I beg you to pardon them and release them. You are Muslims, and Islam, before anything else, is a religion of peace and justice," Aliya Agliulin, wearing an Islamic headscarf, said on Al-Jazeera television on June 21, according to an Arabic voiceover of her statement.
"I, as a Muslim like all other Muslims in Russia, feel pain for what is happening in Iraq. Please act wisely and think of the feeling of the families of the hostages and their children who are waiting for their return. ... My brother is the lone provider for our family."
Videos of beheadings were an early signature of the Iraq insurgency, as well as a grisly trademark of tapes produced by the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. But such graphic images have become rare in the past year.
The exception was a June 10 video showing militants beheading three Iraqis accused of belonging to a Shiite "death squad." Its posting three days after al-Zarqawi's death in a U.S. airstrike suggested an attempt to show his killing had not weakened militants' resolve.