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Al-Qaida Group: Russian Hostages Killed
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A group linked to the al-Qaida terror network in Iraq announced on Sunday that it had executed four Russian Embassy workers it kidnapped in Baghdad, the pan-Arabal-Arabiya satellite TV reported.

"We have carried out God's verdict on the four Russian diplomats...in retaliation for the torture, killing and expulsion of our brothers and sisters by the Russian government," reported the TV, citing a statement posted on a Web site frequently used by Islamist militants.

The statement was signed by the Mujahedeen Shura Council, which is believed to be an umbrella grouping several insurgent groups in Iraq including al-Qaida.

The statement was accompanied by pictures showing the four Russian Embassy staff as well as a videotape.

The four hostages appeared at the beginning of the videotape, speaking Russian. Then the tape showed the beheading of one hostage and the shooting of a second and a beheaded body of a third.

There was no immediate comment from Russia.

The same group threatened on Wednesday to execute the four Russian Embassy staff as the Russian government failed to meet its demands.

"The Russian government has failed to do what we have demanded within 48 hours... so the Islamic court of the Mujahideen Shura Council ruled to execute the hostages," said the group in another statement posted on the same Web site.

The group had demanded the Russian authorities in a separate Internet statement on June 19 to "withdraw immediately from Chechnya" where Muslim rebels are fighting Moscow's rule and "release all our brothers and sisters detained in Russian prisons" within 48 hours, warning Russia to "take the consequences" if it failed to do so.

It also slammed the presence of Russian diplomats in Baghdad, which it said was to support "the crusaders' project led by America" and to "provide international backing and legitimacy to the exhausted Iraqi government."

The group claimed that it had kidnapped the four Russian Embassy employees and killed a fifth in west of Baghdad on June 3.

(Xinhua News Agency June 26, 2006)

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