Georgian State Security Service issued a statement on December 1, confirming that one of the three terrorism suspects killed during the anti-terrorist operation in Tbilisi on November 21-22 was an ISIS member Ahmed Chatayev.
The SSS said Chatayev’s identity has been confirmed “through investigative activities and examinations conducted with the help of the American colleagues, including DNA and finger prints analysis.”
The Security Service also said the identities of the two killed members of the group besides Chatayev were still being established with the help from international partners, since they had no identification documents.
The SSS provided other details of the operation as well, saying activities against the group by the Georgian security forces were launched “on the basis of information provided by international partners,” and that at the beginning of the operation, “for several hours the SSS Counterterrorist Department was conducting negotiations [with the suspects] regarding their surrender.”
The suspects, says the SSS, refused to do so, opening fire and throwing hand grenades at the security forces members. “As a result of the 20-hour special operation, two members of the criminal group were killed, while one person remaining in the apartment – Ahmed Chatayev – detonated himself,” said the SSS in its statement. The Security Service denied earlier media reports that the group included two additional members who managed to escape.
Responding to journalists’ questions at a press briefing, the SSS representative also denied media reports about the participation of the Turkish security forces in the anti-terrorist operation, saying no foreign forces were involved in it directly. She also said the suspect detained earlier in Kobuleti for alleged illegal arms possession was not related to Chatayev’s group.
Asked about the origins of the suspects’ weapons, Giorgobiani responded that “the investigation is underway.”
One of the main questions – how the group managed to enter Georgia undetected – remains unanswered, however, with the SSS statement saying the matter was still under investigation. Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia, who spoke on the issue earlier today, said “according to the initial data, we can tell you this was done illegally.”
U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly commented on the investigation as well, saying: “Obviously, we do have questions about how these individuals were in Georgia.” Kelly added the American side was working “very closely” with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Security Service and confirmed that “some experts from the FBI” arrived to Georgia to help with the investigation at the request of the Georgian government.
Three suspects, including Chatayev, were killed and one was captured as a result of the security forces operation around and within an apartment block in a Tbilisi district of Isani. The operation claimed the life of one security forces serviceman, with another four wounded.
Ahmed Chatayev was listed as terrorist by the U.S. Treasury in 2015 for planning attacks against unspecified U.S. and Turkish facilities. In 2015, he was also added to the UN Security Council’s Al-Qaida Sanctions List. Chatayev is wanted by the Russian authorities as well.
Chatayev was wounded and arrested by the Georgian police following the Lopota gorge clash in late August 2012, but was soon released from jail on bail. Georgian prosecutors dropped the case against him in January 2013, citing absence of evidence. Soon after his release, Chatayev left Georgia, saying he intended to go to Austria to rehabilitate from his wound. By 2015, he had moved to the ISIS-controlled areas in Syria and Iraq.