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Georgia: Tbilisi Hands Over Five Chechen Rebels

Tbilisi, 4 October 2002 (RFE/RL) -- A senior Georgian official says Georgia has handed five suspected Chechen rebels over to Russian authorities. Paata Mskhiladze, the head of the legal department of the Georgian Prosecutor-General's Office, was quoted by Interfax as saying five of 13 gunmen caught crossing into Georgia in August after fighting in Chechnya were released into Russian custody late yesterday. Russian officials have not confirmed the handover.

Russia has repeatedly demanded the extradition of the 13 suspected Chechen rebels saying they are wanted in Russia for terrorism.

The reported extradition of the rebels comes ahead of a planned meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze at a Commonwealth of Independent States summit in Moldova on 6 October.