Monday, September 18, 2006

Russian Roulette

It will be remembered that the "Mujahideen Shura Council" is the al-Qaeda related group that carried out the murders of the four Russian embassy workers in Iraq back in June. These bizarre murders bore a distinctly suspicious character - as Kommersant newspaper noted at the time, the Russian government did not request a UN Security Council meeting to discuss the murders while the diplomats were still alive, but waited until well after they had been killed in order to do so.

Now, according to CNN, the same "Mujahideen Shura Council" has released a statement calling for a "war" against the "worshippers of the cross" in response to the Pope's speech:

"We tell the worshipper of the cross (the Pope) that you and the West will be defeated, as is the case in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya," said an Internet statement by the Mujahideen Shura Council, an umbrella group led by Iraq's branch of al Qaeda, according to the Reuters news agency.

"We shall break the cross and spill the wine. ... God will (help) Muslims to conquer Rome. ... God enable us to slit their throats, and make their money and descendants the bounty of the mujahideen," said the statement.

The group evidently still includes Russia as part of the "West", as the reference to Chechnya makes clear. It's often remarked by political and military commentators that little is actually known about the organizational structure of al-Qaeda - where its real bases are located, where its commanders are. In this case, it would not be at all surprising to find that the trail leads back to Moscow.

Meanwhile, RFE/RL's Newsline reports that Russia's president is offering the Pope some "gentle advice":
President Putin said in Sochi on September 17 that world religious leaders should exercise "responsibility" and restraint in their public utterances, Russian news agencies reported. He added that "we understand how sensitive such matters are." His comment came amid widespread negative reactions in the Islamic world to some historic citations made by Pope Benedict XVI in a recent theological presentation in Regensburg, Germany.
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