TBILISI, DFWatch – Eleven dead bodies have been recovered from the rebel group, which according to the Georgian interior ministry counted about 20 people in total.
The ministry says some of the militants were from North Ossetia, a republic which is part of the Russian Federation.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) published footage of the operation near the border between Georgia and Dagestan, also a Russian republic. The footage shows corpses of armed units, weapons being withdrawn during the operation and the retrieval of dead bodies.
Accompanying the images are comments from a border guard, who were recovering people who had been kidnapped in a village near the village Lapankuri, which is located near the border. He says that border police was searching for five missing youths when they were ambushed.
“About ten armed persons besieged our car. They forced us to leave the car and told us we were hostages. Afterwards, there appeared another members of this unit together with five missing persons,” he says.
He says that he suggested replacing the hostages and so they released those five young people. The goal of the kidnapping was unclear to him.
“We went down to the valley where a representative from the Interior Ministry arrived. After a conversation they told me I wasn’t a useful person to them anymore and they released me.”
According to the ministry, the operation is almost finished.
Spokespersons for the Islamic rebels in Dagestan denied that any of their units had taken anyone hostage, but confirmed that there is an armed battle involving Islamic rebels.
“According to our information, our brother Mujahideens didn’t plan to conduct any operation on Georgian territory, it was not their plan,” their official website says adding that they didn’t take any hostages and that this is accusation of Georgia, which is a lie. They call on Georgia to immediately stop military actions against Mujahideens.
“By such actions you will have a new enemy which will exact a brutal revenge,” the statement says.
Local correspondents report that by 2 am, pick-up trucks had left the valley, but several military and emergency cars arrived there by 6 am. Mine-clearance specialists also arrived at the site in the morning.
Deputy Interior Minister Shota Khizanishvili said at a press conference that the major phase of the operation in the valley is finished.
“Eleven corpses out of a twenty-member armed group have been recovered,” he said at a local police station.
He said that possibly there are several injured people in the forest. The operation wasn’t finished timely because of fog. Khizanishvili said bodies will be buried by their religious beliefs, but he didn’t specify the location.
The press office of the Interior Ministry informs that there are persons from North Ossetia among the rebels, but there is still no information about others.
The deadly clashes erupted 30 km away from the village Lapankuri in the forests close to a mountain range in the eastern part of Georgia bordering on Dagestan.
The next day it became known that Georgian law enforcers were conducting an operation to free three groups of hostages. During the operation two Interior Ministry employees and one Defense Ministry employee died, five are injured. According to the latest official information, 11 rebels are dead, and 6 are surrounded. http://dfwatch.net/two-law-enforcers-one-military-doctor-and-11-boeviks-killed-georgian-officials-report-17291
Meanwhile, five young men who were lost on August 26 are already home. The Interior Ministry informed that the group of those five was the first group of hostages who were released. During interrogation, they say about fifteen armed people kidnapped them and threatened to kill them if they tried to escape.
They were found on August 28 and interrogated during the whole day. Now they are at home.
Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili responded to recent events by saying that there were negotiations with the rebels and Georgian law enforcers offered them to surrender, but they refused.
“Shooting followed the last operation to free hostages, which ended with the liquidation of members of their band.”
The president named North Caucasus neighbors as brothers and appealed to them that Georgia has strong views towards Caucasus as to people having one political and historical fate. He expressed readiness to every kind of contact with northern neighbors.
“We salute tourists but won’t let raids of armed persons against the peaceful population on Georgian territory,” he said, adding that disorder will stay beyond the ridge and won’t continue here.
Russian media yesterday reported that armed rebels had escaped from the grip of law enforcers in Dagestan and entered Georgia, while Russian officials claim that during the last few days no armed groups have crossed the Dagestan section of the Russian-Georgian border. http://dfwatch.net/georgia-says-border-shooting-not-reason-for-russian-action-58147