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Georgian Police Officer Shot Dead Near South Ossetia

TBILISI (Reuters) -- A Georgian police officer has been shot dead near the de facto border with breakaway South Ossetia, the Georgian Interior Ministry said, blaming sniper fire from territory "occupied" by Russian forces.

Police said the officer was the 11th to be killed in the South Ossetia and Abkhazia border regions since Georgia and Russia fought a five-day war in August and Georgian security forces quit both breakaway regions.

"Today at 10 a.m. [local time], as a result of shots fired from occupied territory, a police officer was killed," the ministry said in a statement on January 16.

The incident happened in the village of Knolevi on South Ossetia's southwestern boundary.

"According to preliminary information, the shots were fired from a sniper rifle" from South Ossetia, it said.

Russia drove Georgian forces from South Ossetia in August, repelling a Georgian assault to retake the pro-Russian region, which threw off Tbilisi's rule in the early 1990s.

Moscow has since recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, secured by thousands of Russian troops.

More than 200 European Union monitors are observing the fragile cease-fire, strained by frequent accusations of shooting from both sides of the boundary. They do not have access to South Ossetia.