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Georgian NGO Leader Says Militants Encamped In Pankisi

Zaal Kasrelishvili, who heads the Tbilisi-based Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus, was quoted on July 27 by the Georgian weekly "Mteli kvira" as claiming that some 40 militants are currently encamped in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge close to the border between Georgia and Russia, waiting to cross into Chechnya or Ingushetia.

He said that claim is based on intelligence gathering by confederation members and on information provided by unidentified sympathizers in Europe, Asia, and the North Caucasus. Kasrelishvili said that information suggests that the militants' objective is to assassinate Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov before the onset of autumn.

This is not the first, albeit unconfirmed report that Chechen militants may again be using the Pankisi Gorge, from which they were expelled in a much-publicized operation by Georgian security forces in the fall of 2001, as a rear base. A spokesman for the Russian military claimed on April 21 that up to 60 militants were amassed in Chechnya's Itum-Kale Raion, which borders on Georgia, in readiness to stage a series of terrorist acts in the north of Chechnya. He said those militants had been trained in camps on Georgian territory.

Georgian Foreign Ministry official Zurab Kachkachishvili rejected on April 27 as a provocation Russian claims that the counterterrorism regime imposed in several districts of southeastern Chechnya one week earlier was necessitated by the danger that Chechen militants based in Georgia might seek to cross the border into Chechnya to stage terrorist attacks there.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.


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