Georgian Leaders Take Measures To Stop Arms And Drugs Smuggling In Pankisi Gorge

The Georgian authorities are taking measures to thwart illegal arms and drugs trafficking in the Pankisi Gorge where some 5,000 forced migrants from Chechnya and local ethnic Kistin Chechens are living. Starting from Wednesday, Georgia's national security and interior ministries have been conducting a second stage of the joint special operation on restoring law and order. To this end, road-blocks of law-enforcement structures have been moved to the Pankisi Gorge and the area around the largest settlement of Duisi. According to the representatives of interior forces, all entries and exits of the Pankisi Gorge have been blocked. Since morning, augmented armed groups of national security agents and the police are controlling all the roads leading to the gorge. Operatives are making efforts to release two hostages kept in the Pankisi Gorge. Kidnappers are demanding a ransom of 1.5 million dollars for the POWs-Aziz Khalilov, Azerbaijanian citizen of Georgia, and monk Vasily Machitadze. Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze is confident that the special operation in the Pankisi Gorge will be conducted without obstacles and bloodshed. In his words, criminal groups are operating there, which mainly consist of representatives of other districts of Georgia. The local residents are currently conducting protest manifestations, which have already involved eight villages. The local residents have formed militia detachments and say that they are tired of criminal chaos and are ready to introduce order in the gorge if the authorities fail to achieve any specific results.

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