Putin orders deaths in Iraq

Russian president acts after four embassy employees were killed

June 29, 2006|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

MOSCOW --President Vladimir V. Putin has ordered Russia's secret services to find and kill those who kidnapped and killed four Russian Embassy employees in Iraq, the Kremlin announced yesterday.

The bluntness of the statement reflected the deep shock and anger - much directed at the United States - that have unfolded in Russia after the kidnapping June 3. A fifth Russian was killed during the kidnapping.

The Foreign Ministry confirmed Monday that the kidnapped employees had been killed. The confirmation was made after the release of a short video on an Islamic Web site that showed the beheading of one man, the shooting of another and the body of a third.

"The president gave instructions to the Russian special services to take all measures for finding and destroying the criminals who committed this atrocity," said the official Russian Information Agency, quoting the Kremlin.

No news agencies or state television quoted Putin making the remark. Interfax quoted only remarks he had made appealing for help in finding those involved during a meeting yesterday with Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia.

Putin has made similarly pointed threats against Chechnya's separatist fighters and those who behind terrorist attacks in Russia.

How Russian agents might carry out Putin's order in Iraq is unclear, given how little is known about the group that claimed to carry out the kidnapping and killings: the Mujahedeen Shura, or Council of Holy Warriors, which says it represents al-Qaida in Mesopotamia and other insurgent groups in Iraq.

Nikolai P. Patrushev, the director of the Federal Security Service, said later yesterday that no effort would be spared in carrying out Putin's order "no matter how much time and effort will be needed."

The United States, with many other countries, has denounced the killings of the five embassy workers - a member of the diplomatic corps whose title was third secretary, a maintenance worker, a driver, a guard and a cook - as acts of terrorism.

U.S. military commanders in Iraq had pledged to help find the hostages and, after their deaths, those who killed them. But many Russian officials, clerics, politicians and commentators have blamed the United States and the failure of the U.S.-led forces to provide security.

Yesterday, the lower house of the Russian parliament voted to adopt a statement that referred only to the "occupying countries" in Iraq but blamed them for the deaths. "We believe they could have prevented the tragedy," the statement said.

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