Five people have been detained as a result of an hours-long special operation in the Pankisi Gorge
The State Security Service of Georgia (SSS) has revealed that the individuals who where involved in the special operation at Monk Gabriel Salosi street in Tbilisi on 21 November had been plotting attacks on Turkish and Georgian diplomatic missions. The conclusion was reached after law-enforcers examined the equipment used by the individuals.
The State Security Service reported at a special briefing today that the m0bile phones and computer data which was examined has revealed that the terrorists possessed a secret cache of firearms, radio sets, maps and other materials which have now been seized by the SSS.
Prior to the special briefing, an hours-long special operation was carried out in Pankisi Gorge which started at 4 am today and followed on the special operation which took place earlier in Tbilisi. A total of 50 special task force officers were involved in the operation which was conducted in two villages of Pankisi Gorge – Duisi and Omalo. Five individuals were detained during the special operation, one of them seriously wounded.
The individuals detained in the Pankisi Gorge have already been identified: Zurab Gornakashvili, Ruslan Aldamov, Ramaz Margoshvili, Baddur Chopanashvili and Temirlan Machalikashvili. Machalikashvili was wounded in the forehead and was taken to hospital. All detainees are natives of Pankisi. According to the SSS, criminal proceedings against the aforesaid individuals have been instituted under Part 3 of Article 3311 of the Criminal Code of Georgia which involves the funding and assisting of terrorist activities.
According to the law-enforcement agency, the detainees were linked to Ahmed Chatayev and his associates who were killed in the special operation at Monk Gabriel Salosi street where three people were killed and one was detained. The SSS later confirmed that one of those killed was Chatayev, a former Islamic State leader suspected of masterminding the terrorist attack at Istanbul Airport.
As reported, the detainees had helped them to illegally cross into Georgia and find an apartment as well as providing them with firearms.
Other individuals killed in the Tbilisi special operation have also been identified at the State Security Service’s special briefing today: Ibragim Adashev, a Russian citizen who had travelled to Georgia in 2010-2012 using various fake passports, as well as Aslanbeg Soltakhmadov.
The SSS also identified one of the people who was detained in Pankisi as Shoaif Borziev, a person wanted by Interpol on terrorism charges.
- Pankisi Gorge is 150 km from Tbilisi and 30 km from Chechnya. According to 2014 census data, there are 5 700 Kists in the Pankisi Gorge. The Kists are ethnic Chechens who came from Chechnya in the 19th century and settled down in Pankisi Gorge. The Pankisi Kists are a well-integrated ethic minority group in Georgia. Nearly all of them speak Georgian fluently along with their native Chechen language.
- In the 2000s, thousands of refugees escaped the Chechen war and found shelter in Pankisi Gorge. It also served then as a shelter for the Chechen militants hiding from Russian federal troops. It was then that Pankisi Gorge turned into a ‘danger zone’ and could not get rid of its a reputation for years.
- Along with the beginning of the conflict in Syria and the revival of the ‘Islamic State’, Pankisi has come to the front burner again. According to various data, 40-50 young people from Pankisi are currently fighting for the Islamic State. Four of them are field commanders, including Abu Omar al-Shishani, a notorious ISIS leader.