June 21, 2006

Iraq’s al Qaeda says to kill Russian hostages: Web

DUBAI (Reuters) - A group led by al Qaeda in Iraq said on
Wednesday it has decided to kill four Russian hostages after
Moscow failed to meet demands to withdraw from Chechnya and
free Muslim prisoners, according to an Internet posting.

"After granting the Russian government 48 hours to meet our
demands and their failure to do so ... the Islamic court of the
Mujahideen Shura Council ruled to kill them (hostages)," said
the statement posted on a Web site often used by militants.

"And let them be an example for those who follow them and
challenge the mujahideen and dare to step foot in the land of
honor, Iraq."

The statement's authenticity could not be verified and it
was unclear when the hostages might be killed.

Four Russian embassy staff were kidnapped and a fifth was
shot dead when gunmen blocked their vehicle in a Baghdad
district on June 3.

On Monday, the Mujahideen Shura Council said it was holding
the four Russians and gave Moscow 48 hours to meet its demands.

In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry urged the group not to kill
the hostages and to heed calls for their release.

"We once again strongly appeal for them not to take an
irretrievable step and to keep our people alive," ministry
spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in the statement.

"Those who carried out this action should also listen to
the numerous appeals from the most authoritative figures in the
Islamic world who are pressing for the earliest possible
release of the Russian citizens."

Iraq's al Qaeda has killed a number of foreign hostages,
some by beheading.

The Mujahideen Shura Council, an umbrella body composed of
al Qaeda in Iraq and several other Sunni militant groups, has
pledged to continue a holy war against U.S.-led forces despite
the killing of the leader of Iraq's al Qaeda, Abu Musab

Chechen rebels on Tuesday demanded the release of the
hostages. Akhmed Zakayev, the exiled foreign minister in the
Chechen rebel "government," denied any links to the Mujahideen
Shura Council.