Moscow is investigating a claim that the kidnapping of four Russian diplomats was carried out by an al-Qaida-linked group, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday. He called for the hostages' early release.
"We took this information seriously, and we are currently verifying it via our channels," Lavrov said, referring to reports that the Mujahedeen Shura Council, an umbrella organization grouping several Islamist militant groups in Iraq including al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for kidnapping four Russian diplomats and killing a fifth in Baghdad on June 3.
"We have been checking and re-checking this information using all channels and making contacts every hour with the purpose of establishing the whereabouts of our men. We hope that the efforts will yield results," Lavrov said, quoted by Russian news agencies.
He renewed the call for the early release of the diplomats, saying Russia is "a sincere friend of the Iraqi people and has done everything in its power to prevent the situation Iraq has found itself in now."
On Monday, the Russia Foreign Ministry demanded the immediate release of the diplomats, who were abducted when their vehicle came under fire from gunmen in the Iraqi capital more than two weeks ago.