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Georgian Official Identifies Suspect Still At Large After Hostage-Taking

A picture of the suspected bank robber, whom Georgia's deputy interior minister has identified as Badri Esebua.

TBILISI -- Georgian Deputy Interior Minister Vladimer Bortsvadze has officially identified a man suspected in an attempted bank robbery that turned into a hostage-taking incident before he made off with the ransom money.

Bortsvadze said late on October 26 that Badri Esebua, born in 1988, is suspected in a crime that shocked the South Caucasus nation last week.

"The police are actively conducting special operative, investigative, and search operations to determine his whereabouts and detain him," Bortsvadze said.

A masked gunman wearing military fatigues took 43 people hostage at a branch of the Bank of Georgia in the western city of Zugdidi on October 21.

He initially released 24 of the hostages, and then, after an almost 12-hour standoff with police that stretched into the evening, the gunman left the building with three hostages after reportedly demanding $500,000 and a guarantee to leave the area safely.

The suspect left the bank premises with four people, including three hostages and the head of the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Police Department, Avtandil Galdava, who had been acting as a negotiator.

The four were released later while the suspect escaped with an unknown amount of cash.