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Georgia: Shevardnadze Says Attack Was A Well-Planned Military Operation

Tbilisi, 10 February 1998 (RFE/RL) - Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze says last night's attempt on his life was "a well-planned and prepared military operation." Speaking to a small group of reporters early today, Shevardnadze said he believed the attack may have been carried out with foreign help and that one possible motive was a growing battle over a new pipeline to carry Caspian oil westward across Georgia.

Parliament Speaker Zurab Zhvania also said that the attack was a military operation planned from abroad rather than a terrorist act. Zhvania said up to 20 highly-skilled professionals had taken part in it.

Later today Shevardnadze is due to chair an emergency meeting of the government.

Gunmen last night ambushed Shevardnadze's motorcade as the president was returning home. Two of Shevardnadze's bodyguards were killed in the attack. A gunman, reported to be a Chechen from Dagestan, was also killed.

Police say gunmen opened fire on the president's motorcade at about 23:15 local time with small arms and grenade launchers. All seven vehicles in the motorcade were hit in the attack. Shevardnadze's limousine sustained three grenade strikes.

Later Shevardnadze appeared on state television in apparent good health. He appealed for calm and said it was "God's will" that he was still alive.

Police, interior and army troops beefed up security around government buildings early today as the search for the assailants continued. The borders of the country were sealed and security forces checked suspicious vehicles at roadblocks.

Last night's attack was the second assassination attempt on Shevardnadze. The previous attempt on his life was an August 1995 bomb attack.

See also: About Georgia and Energy Politics In The Caspian And Russia