Shevardnadze Asserts that the Militants Have Left Georgia

Eduard Shevardnadze asserts that the militants "have left, in the main, the territory of Georgia." "It is undoubtedly a great achievement" of the anti-criminal operation in the Pankisi Gorge, said the Georgian President in a traditional interview he gave to the National Radio on Monday.

"We can say that the wide-scale operation in the gorge has been completed," said the President and added that it was successful.

In the opinion of Eduard Shevardnadze, at the present time the main task is "to find those criminals who have committed grave crimes in the territories of Georgia, Russia and other countries." According to him, this task should be accomplished by joint efforts of secret services of Georgia and the Russian Federation.

At the same time, at the news conference after the radio interview the Georgian President admitted that separate militants have still remained in the Pankisi Gorge. In this way Eduard Shevardnadze commented on an article in American weekly Time which says that the Georgian secrete services have detained over a dozen militants and now continue the search for about thirty Pankisi Arabs, they have prevented two terrorist acts with the assistance of the Americans.

"I cannot comment on this article as far as some facts are concerned. However, I know that the Georgian secret services conducted rather serious operations in the Pankisi Gorge and that the greater part of the militants have left Georgia," said the President.

At the same time the President admitted that a certain number of the militants have still remained there (in the gorge)." However, the President hesitated to specify their nationality - "Arabs, Chechens or somebody else." Eduard Shevardnadze said that he had charged appropriate Georgian services with holding additional measures "to make it sure that not a single foreign militant has remained" in Georgia.

Commenting, at the request of reporters, on the article in the Time saying that the Arabs detained in Georgia are already kept, most probably, in the camp on the American base in Guantanamo (Cuba), Eduard Shevardnadze did not exclude the extradition of the militants to the American side. "We extradite the detrained not only to Russia but also to other countries," said the Georgian President.

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