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Four Die in South Ossetia Skirmish
/ 8 Sep.'06 / 15:56
Civil Georgia

Three South Ossetian militia members and one Georgian officer died in a clash in the South Ossetian conflict zone early on September 8, five days after a Georgian army helicopter was fired on over the breakaway region.

Tbilisi and Tskhinvali have accused each other of provoking the recent incident.

The South Ossetian Press and Information Committee reported that a checkpoint manned by South Ossetian Interior Ministry troops was attacked after a car belonging to the Georgian Interior Ministry approached the checkpoint located between the Georgian village of Nikozi and Ossetian village of Tbeti at about 11:30 local time.

But Georgian officials said that the Interior Ministry’s car, which was “on an anti-smuggling mission” in the area, was attacked by the South Ossetian militiamen.

MP Givi Targamadze, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Defense and Security, said that the Georgian officers were attacked when they tried to check the IDs of the South Ossetian militiamen near the village of Nikozi.

Three Georgian policemen were injured in a similar incident near the village of Avnevi in the conflict zone on August 7.

Shortly after the clash, Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili visited the town of Gori, near the conflict zone, where two Georgian officers were hospitalized with non-fatal injuries. Merabishvili  told reporters that 35-year-old Malkhaz Komakhidze died in the shootout, but declined to comment on any other details of the incident.

Georgian State Minister for Conflict Resolution Issues Merab Antadze left for the conflict zone after the incident, where he is reportedly expected to meet with the South Ossetian officials.

This latest incident has triggered more harsh statements among key Georgian parliamentarians, who are accusing both the South Ossetian side and Russian peacekeeping forces of stirring tensions in the region.

“I want to reiterate that all these [incidents] make the timeframe for peaceful decisions shorter. These so-called Russian peacekeeping forces are increasing the probability of Georgian law enforcement agencies carrying out forceful operations,” MP Givi Targamadze, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Defense and Security, said in an interview with the Rustavi 2 television on September 8.

“I am afraid the Georgian state will have to launch anti-criminal operation there,” MP Targamadze added.

He also said that Tbilisi will spare no efforts in the coming few months to peacefully solve the South Ossetian conflict, but added that the Georgian state “will have to restore order on this territory on its own.”

“These are no longer provocations, these are terrorist acts, which should be immediately addressed. We need a radical support from the international community and very concrete steps to solve the conflict peacefully, otherwise the Georgian state will have to undertake these concrete measures,” MP Targamadze said.

“This is one more outrageous terrorist act… We have done much in the past year and a half to solve the conflict peacefully, but these peaceful initiatives do not mean that we will turn a blind eye on the terrorist acts of this kind,” MP Davit Bakradze, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for European Integration Issues, told Imedi television on September 8.

In an interview with Russian television on September 8 Defense Minister of breakaway South Ossetia Anatoly Barankevich warned that “a military confrontation will lead to bloodshed among the Georgian troops.”

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