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Georgia: 12 Chechens Arrested In Pankisi Gorge

Tbilisi, 18 September 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The Georgian Interior Ministry said today that an operation by law-enforcement and security agencies in the Pankisi Gorge has led to the arrest of 12 Chechens. The ministry said it is in the process of determining whether the 12 were involved with Chechen separatists fighting Russian forces in Chechnya or even part of a terrorist group.

The ministry also said a cache of weapons was found.

The announcement of the arrests comes one day after Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Georgian authorities of cooperating with Chechen rebels in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, which is just south of the border with Russia's breakaway Chechen republic.

The Russian government and military have been critical of Georgia's efforts to rein in lawlessness in the gorge, which Russia says is used by Chechen separatists.