No More Terrorists In Pankisi Gorge? - 21 October, 2002 - News

Eduard Shevardnadze’ poor eyesight concealed Pankisi terrorists from him
The tension in the relations between Russia and Georgia has slightly reduced: the two different national temperaments have managed to find common ground. The parties agreed that they will both patrol the Russia-Georgia border, which against the background of a three-week opposition actually looks like triumph of wit over foolishness.

To consolidate the success, Eduard Shevardnadze himself reported the results of the anti-criminal operation in the Pankisi Gorge. The Georgian president said that terrorists “for the most part, had left Georgian territory.” Eduard Shevardnadze said that the operation was a success. In his words, the main objective now is “to identify those criminals who have committed grave crimes on the territories of Georgia, Russia, and other countries.” The Georgian president is sure that the special services of Russia and Georgia should work on the problem together. However, after an interview to Georgian national radio, Eduard Shevardnadze held a press-conference and admitted that some terrorists are still present in the Pankisi Gorge.

The words of Eduard Shevardnadze contradict the publication in America’s weekly Time, which says that al-Qaeda terrorists are taking shelter in the Pankisi Gorge and that the terrorists don’t only support Chechen terrorists. The magazine reports that the gorge has been turned into an international base of Islamic terrorists, whose strength has turned out to be unbelievably high. According to Time, “at the beginning of the year, the number of Arab terrorists there was believed to be about several dozen. As it turned out later, the number was at least five times as high." The article mentions that two terrorist plots have been prevented in Georgia in the past and several al-Qaeda commanders were captured. The American weekly says that the Georgian authorities also control hundreds of thousands of dollars assigned for terrorist activities.

Against the article’s background, the words of Shevardnadze concerning the success of the operation sound somewhat dubious. Either the Georgian president isn’t informed about the situation in the gorge (which is highly unlikely), or he deliberately leads the West astray. Both variants may bring lamentable consequences to Shevardnadze himself.

Dmitry Chirkin PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Maria Gousseva

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