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Georgia welcomes Al Qaeda emissaries?2009-10-14 12:07
At the National Anti-terrorist Committee session Director of Russian FSS, NAC chairman Alexander Bortnikov made a statement that can have far-reaching consequences. He accused Georgian special services of assisting Al Qaeda network in transferring terrorists to Chechnya and shipping arms to Dagestan.
In early 1990s and 200s similar accusations against certain Georgian structures that were actively supporting Chechen militants were frequently heard. But each time the Georgian authorities tried to deny any contacts with Caucasian extremists. Though everyone knew there were training bases for militants going to Chechnya in Pankisi gorge.
In the 1990s Pankisi was virtually occupied by the groups of Chechen militants upon agreement with Georgian leaders. Georgian power departments turned a blind eye on that. Led by Gelaev, Abdul-Malik, Amzhet, Khasan and other field commanders the groups were having weapons practice, battle drills and mining activities under the supervision of foreign instructors in the training areas of the gorge. A field infirmary and a powerful communication center with satellite dishes, a field telephone station and equipment for radio warfare were deployed there.
This all made Russia assert that Georgia had turned into a transfer site and a rear base for militants that counteract Russia in North Caucasus.
At a press conference Sergey Yastrezhembsky, a Kremlin official at that time, was asked a question if Russia might strike a preventive blow to the bases of militants in Pankisi? Yastrezhembsky's answer was this: if the USA can strike these blows to Al Qaeda training camps why Russia can't? What a storm it was in the press!
There were no preventive blows but then Georgian president Shevarnadze tried to oust the militants from the gorge. For a while! While journalists and international observers were shown around Duisi, Zemo, Kvemo, Shua Khalatsani, Tsinubani and other villages of the gorge assured there were no militants and never had been there.
But already in 2004 Pankisi was a refuge for one-legged "general of terror" Shamil Basaev, caringly patronized by new Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvil's special services. As Utro.ru wrote, at that time Basaev had a meeting with Georgian Interior Minister Irakli Okruashvili.