Four Russian hostages were brutally executed in Iraq by Al-Qaeda insurgents even as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki talked of peace with rebel groups in a national reconciliation plan.
The Al-Qaeda-led Mujahedeen Shura (consultative) Council in Iraq on Sunday claimed it killed the four hostages, saying Russia had failed to meet its demand to withdraw from Chechnya and free Muslim prisoners.
A statement issued along with a gruesome Internet video showing two of the hostages being executed said: "We present the implementation of Allah's rule against the Russian diplomats to comfort the believers."
"It is also in revenge for our brothers and sisters and what they suffer of torture, killing and displacement by the infidel Russian government."
The videotape showed four hostages speaking in separate messages dated June 13, before two of them were shown being killed and another after his murder.
The first was held on his knees in front of two masked black-clad men, one of whom produced a knife and beheaded the captive. Another body was shown lying in a pool of blood with its severed head placed on its back.
A third hostage was shown kneeling handcuffed and blindfolded before being shot in the head. There was no sign of the fourth.
Fyodor Zaytsev, Rinat Aglyulin, Anatoly Smirnov and Oleg Fedosseyev were abducted on June 3 when gunmen ambushed their vehicle in the upscale west Baghdad district of Mansur.