Georgia, South Ossetia investigating shootout that killed five

Georgian and Ossetian members of a joint mediation commission met Monday to investigate a shootout that killed four residents of the breakaway region of South Ossetia and a Georgian policeman.

The violence that erupted Sunday near a village north of the regional capital, Tskhinvali, was the first reported in the tense region in months. Each side blamed the other for setting it off.

South Ossetia broke away from central government control in an 18-month war that ended in 1992. Tension has risen under Georgia's new president, Mikhail Saakashvili, who took office in January 2004 and pledged to bring South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, back into the fold.

Georgia's Conflict Resolution Minister Georgy Khaindrava said Monday that the shootout could have occurred "as the result of a mere accident and not as a result of a provocation."

He said Georgian and South Ossetian investigators were conducting a joint investigation into the incident and would soon present their findings.

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