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Georgia: Kidnappers Demand Release Of Assassination Suspects

Tbilisi, 19 February 1998 (RFE/RL) - Gunmen who seized four UN observers in Georgia today are demanding that suspects in the assassination attempt against President Eduard Shevardnadze be freed. Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Valarian Gogolashvili said that in exchange for the hostages, the gunmen are demanding that all seven suspects arrested in connection with the 9 February attack on Shevardnadze be released. He said talks are ongoing.

The UN observers were kidnapped near the western town of Zugdidi. The kidnappers later retreated to a nearby village where they are surrounded by security forces in armored vehicles. The Interior Ministry said the gunmen are supporters of former Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Gamsakhurdia's supporters were also blamed for last week's attempt on Shevardnadze's life.

In Stockholm, the Swedish Foreign Ministry said the abducted UN observers were from Sweden, Uruguay, and the Czech Republic.