Russia demanded the immediate release on Monday of four Russian diplomats abducted more than two weeks ago in Iraq after a group linked to the al-Qaida terror network claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.
The Mujahedeen Shura Council, an umbrella grouping several Islamist militant groups in Iraq including the al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for kidnapping four Russian diplomats and killing a fifth in Baghdad on June 3 in a statement posted on the Internet, the pan-Arab al-Arabiya satellite television reported on Monday.
"Moscow has taken these reports seriously and is taking rapid moves to verify them," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said.
"We again call on the abductors to immediately free the Russian citizens and guarantee their security," Kamynin said.
"Whatever the motives of those who perpetrated this action, there is no excuse for any abduction of representatives of a country that has actively contributed to efforts to restore peace in Iraq and ensure the independence and well-being of the friendly Iraqi people," he said.
The four diplomats were abducted on June 3 when their vehicle came under fire from unidentified gunmen in the Iraqi capital. A fifth Russian diplomat was killed in the attack.