“The president gave the instruction to the Russian secret services to take all necessary steps to find and destroy the criminals who committed this evil deed,” an unnamed Kremlin official said.
Gunman abducted the four embassy employees after attacking their vehicle in the west Baghdad neighbourhood of Mansur earlier this month. The attack killed a fifth Russian citizen.
“Russia would be grateful to all its friends for any information about the criminals who killed the Russian citizens,” the official said, adding that the president had already made a similar appeal to the governor of the Saudi capital Riyadh.
President Putin’s instructions drew a promise from the head of the FSB secret service, Nikolai Patrushev, to undertake an exhaustive hunt for the murders. “We will do this no matter how much time and effort is required,” Interfax quoted him as saying.
Russian secret services have hit targets abroad before, but they’re usually secret operations. The statement by Mr Putin, himself a former spy, was unusually open, leading one independent analyst Pavel Felgenhauer to dismiss the act as a PR exercise.
“This declaration is an obvious imitation of those of (US President George W) Bush after September 11.”
Al Qaeda militant captured
Meanwhile, Iraqi officials say they have captured a Tunisian Al Qaeda militant who allegedly took part in the bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in February, an attack which unleashed a massive wave of sectarian violence.
“We managed to capture Abu Qudama al-Tunisi, a Tunisian, recently and he has taken an active part in blowing up the Golden mosque,” Iraqi national security advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie said.
Thousands of Shiites and Sunnis died in tit-for-tat killings in the aftermath of the mosque’s bombing, the burial place of two Imams revered by Shiites.
Al Rubaie said the alleged mastermind of the Samarra attack, Iraqi Haitham Al Badri, remains at large. It’s believed Al Badri led a cell which included Abu Qudama, four Saudi nationals and another Iraqi.
Abu Qudama, whose real name is Yusri Naji al-Traiki, was captured “a few days ago” when he and about 15 foreign fighters tried to attack an Iraqi army checkpoint in Dhuluiyah, north of the capital, Al Rubaie said.
In a sign of the times, and equipment that the country’s insurgents have, Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki has set up an email account to communicate with insurgents, confidentiality guaranteed.
The address flashed on the television screen during a broadcast on state run al-Iraqiya on the problems which Iraqi people face, it wasn’t given out after the broadcast to prevent the inbox flooding with junk or prank emails.
Iraqi presidential security adviser Wafiq al-Samaraie said the initial response hasn’t been overwhelming, with only two messages reportedly having arrived.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Al Maliki has said that a number of rebel groups have responded to his reconciliation plan and expressed an interest in joining the political process. “Those who have no blood of Iraqis or security forces on their hand, our doors are open for them,” he said.
In the ongoing violence across the country, at least nine people were killed and 30 wounded, a female engineer was kidnapped in Baghdad and two bullet-riddled bodies were found in the Tigris River south of the capital.