Tbilisi anti-terror operation results: one special forces trooper killed, three suspected terrorists liquidated, apartment block badly damaged
Three persons with suspected terrorism links have been killed, and another detained. Few details about them have been revealed so far, one being that they are not Georgian nationals. One member of the Georgian special police operations unit has been killed, and four others are wounded.
Such are the consequences of a 22-hour armed standoff that ended in Tbilisi earlier in the evening today.
It all started at about 20:00 on 21 November, after the police had been tipped off that there was a group of suspected terrorists holed up in a flat in a building on Tbilisi’s outskirts.
According to the state security service, before launching their raid, the police had made sure to evacuate all residents of the apartment block in question. Later that evening, as the Rustavi-2 TV channel covered the situation, the sound of guns being fired could be heard in its breaking news broadcast.
By around five in the morning, the gunfire and explosions had started to intensify.
In its first official comments about the raid, released several hours after it had begun, the state security service said they had negotiated with the suspects for several hours, demanding that they hand themselves in. However, the group had responded by opening fire, injuring – fatally, as it would turn out later – one of the special squad troopers.
On 22 November, noontime newscasts by a number of Georgian televisions showed several local residents coming out of the building, something that countered the state security service’s earlier assurances that all its residents had been evacuated to safety.
“[They] hid in a bathroom,” a local told Rustavi-2.
“Help! At least get the child out of here!” a resident wrote on Facebook.
By 13:00 on 22 November, a brief lull had again been interrupted by gunfire and explosions. Armoured vehicles and additional police squads had begun being deployed outside of the building. Before long, reports started circulating that the raid on the building had been launched.
By around 16:00, a massive fire broke out in the flat on the second floor of the building where the suspects were taking cover.
The sounds of shots being fired and grenades exploding continued for about 18 hours in all. The occasional sirens of fire trucks and wail of ambulances added to the chaos.
“There’s a real war unfolding here,” a local resident write on Facebook. “I’m looking out of my window, and what I see is nothing short of a war.”
The end-of-the-day results, 22 November
“As a result of the special operation, three people with suspected links to terrorism have been liquidated, after they put up armed resistance to the law-enforcement agencies for 22 hours,” Nino Giorgobiani, the spokesperson for the state security service told journalists at a special briefing in the evening today, shortly after the end of the operation.
Yet another member of the group has been detained, she said.
Several flats in the building were badly damaged during the standoff. The state security service has promised to the flat owners to compensate for all the damage.
Presently, law-enforcement units and crime experts are still at the scene of the incident, documenting it in detail and collecting physical evidence.
Who are the suspects?
There are no Georgian nationals among the suspects, the state security service reports, providing no details as to where they came from or how they got into Georgia.
“These persons have been under police surveillance for several weeks,” the service’s Nino Giorgobiani said. “Presently, measures are being taken as part of the international counter-terrorism cooperation to establish their identities and trace their criminal links.”
Also, it has become known today that the owner of the flat the suspects lived in is some Aslan Jabrailov, a resident of the Pankisi Gorge, a region on Georgia’s border with Chechnya that has a reputation as a recruiting ground for ISIS.
Legally, the flat belongs to Jabrailov’s mother, Tina Gaurgashvili who is a citizen of Austria now. Her sister Sara Gaurgashvili told Rustavi-2 that her family had never rented out the flat, and that she had no idea how people suspected of terrorism could have ended up there.
Jabrailov himself, who is a gas-filling station employee in Akhmeta, a town in the Pankisi Gorge, told the law-enforcers he had let out the flat several months ago.