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South Ossetia Claims Shelling By Georgian Forces

Tensions are high in South Ossetia (file photo) 12 August 2004 -- South Ossetia has accused Georgian forces of having shelled "several" villages in the separatist province, injuring civilians and damaging buildings.

Irina Gagloyeva, spokeswoman for South Ossetia's Information and Press Committee, claimed Georgia's military used mortars, antiaircraft weapons, and firearms in the incident early today. She said there have been civilian casualties in South Ossetia but gave no details.

Officials in Georgia did not immediately respond to the claim.

Tension between Georgia and South Ossetia has heightened following Tbilisi's decision to send security forces to the province, officially to combat smugglers. Six people were reportedly wounded early on 11 August when Georgian and South Ossetian forces traded fire in the area.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has vowed to gain control over South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Both republics seceded from Georgian central government control in the early 1990s.