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Civilian Dies, Rebel Warlord Escapes
/ 27 Jul.'06 / 14:50
Civil Georgia

Officials confirmed the death of one civilian as a result of a bomb attack carried out by army helicopters in the village of Chkhalta, where rebel warlord Emzar Kvitsiani and his militia members were based overnight on July 27.

Kvitsiani himself has escaped from the area and law enforcers are now trying to hunt him down, Giorgi Arveladze, chief of the Georgian President’s Administration, said at a news conference in Tbilisi at about 2 pm on July 27.

The official said that Kvitsiani and his militiamen were based in the village of Chkhalta before 2 am of July 27.
 
“They have used the peaceful population as a shield, which has caused the death of this woman,” Arveladze said.

He told reporters that rebel militiamen opened fire and damaged two helicopters, which resulted in a bomb attack being launched against the area where shots had been fired from.

He said that, in an attempt to prevent further casualties among the peaceful population, law enforcers gave a corridor to Kvitsiani through which the rebel warlord and his fighters could leave the besieged village.

“So now an operation is underway to hunt him down. Now they are hiding in forested areas, but wherever they are we will capture and punish them anyway,” Arveladze said.

 He added that “The search operation might take several days.”

Officials in Tbilisi have already warned the Abkhaz side neither to provide assistance to Kvitsiani’s militiamen, nor to grant them safe entry into Abkhaz-controlled territory.

Earlier on July 27, the Chief of Staff of the breakaway Abkhaz army Anatoly Zaitsev ruled out the possibility of Emzar Kvitsiani infiltrating Abkhaz-controlled territory.

The Georgian Interior Ministry announced on July 27 that it is offering GEL 100 000 (about USD 56 000) as a reward for valuable information leading to the capture of warlord Emzar Kvitsiani.

Arveladze said he “cannot confirm” reports that Kvitsiani is injured. He said that so far only two employees of the Interior Ministry have been wounded in the police operation in upper Kodori gorge.

Arveladze also said that “several criminals” have been captured and “most of them have surrendered their arms.”

He noted that at the moment a “major part” of the anti-criminal operation has been “successfully completed,” as law enforcement agents currently control all of the villages in upper Kodori Gorge.

He also said a “large number” of weapon have been seized, including IGLA and STRELA anti-aircraft missile systems.

Arveladze also said that the government is planning social rehabilitation programs in the gorge, including the restoration of schools, a hospital, roads and a landing pad.

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