08TBILISI1170, FOUR KILLED IN ABKHAZIA BLAST

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI1170 2008-07-07 14:01 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

P 071401Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9730
INFO EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L TBILISI 001170 
 
 
DEPT. FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/08/2018 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM GG
SUBJECT: FOUR KILLED IN ABKHAZIA BLAST 
 
REF: A. TBILISI 1141 
     B. TBILISI 1152 
     C. TBILISI 1160 
     D. TBILISI 1161 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
1.  (C) Summary and Comment: On the evening of July 6, a 
powerful explosion ripped through a cafe in the city of Gali, 
killing four, including the de-facto chief of state security 
for Gali, Major Muratia, and an off-duty UN interpreter.  Ten 
others, including another UN interpreter, were wounded.  The 
explosion occurred following a series of four small 
explosions the morning of July 6 on the Georgian side of the 
cease-fire line along the M-27 highway near the Enguri 
bridge, reportedly hitting the car of the Georgian deputy 
police chief.  The United Nations Observer Mission to Georgia 
(UNOMIG) reported that no injuries resulted from the blast, 
and damage to the road was minimal.  UNOMIG also reports that 
the Enguri bridge has reopened to civilian traffic (refs 
A&B), though locals need to show a Russian passport or a 
local Abkhaz ID card to pass.  Separately, Irakli Tsanava, 
leader of the Georgian-backed government in Upper Abkhazia, 
accused the Russians of bringing in an additional 45 
trainloads of weapons, including tanks and anti-aircraft 
guns, into Abkhazia.  UNOMIG confirmed that the CIS PKF is 
currently conducting a swap of its BTR armored personnel 
carriers, but could not confirm reports of additional heavy 
equipment entering Abkhazia. 
 
2.  (C)  Summary and Comment continued: The situation in 
South Ossetia was calm despite sporadic firefights over the 
weekend following a series of attacks and reprisals on July 3 
that killed South Ossetian de-facto police chief Nodar 
Bibilov and targeted the motorcade of Dmitry Sanakoyev, 
leader of the Georgian-backed temporary administrative unit 
of South Ossetia (ref D).  Georgian media reported that two 
people were killed and 10 wounded following a mortar attack 
on the evening of July 3 on Tskhinvali, the capital of the 
breakaway republic of South Ossetia.  OSCE monitors confirmed 
that three people were wounded in the attack, but could not 
confirm any fatalities. Shooting was also reported near the 
Georgian villages of Nuli and Kekhvi early on July 5, but 
there were no casualties.  The incidents in both conflict 
zones have  further increased tensions in the region by 
fueling a string of attacks and retributory counter-attacks 
that could easily push the sides into open conflict. 
Particularly troubling is the recent increase in the number 
and frequency of bomb and IED explosions targeting both 
Georgian and de-facto officials, and the use of explosives 
apparently to create fear among local civilians.  Such 
tactics, which were widespread prior to Saakashvili's 
election in 2004, could mark the beginning of a new and 
dangerous stage where elements from both sides settle scores 
using terrorist tactics.  We are actively and strongly 
condemning these acts (ref C) and the Ambassador spoke again 
with Foreign Minister Tkeshelashvili on July 7 to further 
reinforce our message that these attacks stop.  End Summary 
and Comment. 
 
Gali Security Chief killed by blast 
----------------------------------- 
3.  (C) On the evening of July 6, the ethnic Abkhaz Gali 
de-facto state security chief, Major Muratia, was killed by 
an explosion at the opening of a new cafe in the 
predominantly ethnic-Georgia city of Gali in Abkhazia.  The 
blast also killed an off-duty UN interpreter, a member of the 
Abkhaz state security service and a local civilian. Ten 
others were wounded, including another UN interpreter. 
Abkhaz de-facto president Sergei Bagapsh accused the Georgian 
government of engaging in "state terrorism," saying that the 
Gali blast was the latest in a chain of "terrorist acts" 
targeting de-facto leaders.  Georgian government officials 
denied any involvement in the blast, with Georgian Deputy 
Interior Minister Shota Utiashvili calling Bagapsh's claims 
"absurd and groundless."  The cafe explosion followed a 
series of four blasts earlier that morning along the M-27 
highway near the Georgian village of Rukhi.  UNOMIG reports 
that the explosives detonated in a timed series, with the 
third and fourth explosions occurring simultaneously 
approximately 10 minutes after the second explosion, in an 
apparent attempt to target the first responders on the scene. 
 No injuries were reported, though the car belonging to the 
Georgian deputy police chief for Zugdidi, Napoleon 
Partstvania, was damaged as he attempted to secure the area 
following the first two blasts.  All four explosions are 
believed to have been from 60-82mm mortar rounds used as 
Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) planted along the road. 
 
4.  (C) UNOMIG reports that the main administrative boundary 
crossing between Georgia and Abkhazia along the Enguri bridge 
has reopened to civilian traffic.  Abkhaz militia are 
requiring civilians traveling to Gali to have either a 
Russian passport or a "Form 9" refugee ID card to cross. 
Separately, Irakli Tsanava, leader of the Georgian-backed 
government in Upper Abkhazia, accused the Russians of 
bringing in an additional 45 trainloads of weapons, including 
tanks, BTR armored pe
rsonnel carriers, anti-aircraft guns and 
radar, into Abkhazia.  UNOMIG confirmed that the CIS PKF were 
currently conducting a swap of BTRs on a one-for-one basis, 
but could not confirm reports that additional heavy equipment 
was entering Abkhazia. 
 
South Ossetia calm but tense following attacks 
--------------------------------------------- - 
5.  (C) The situation in South Ossetia is currently calm 
following a series of attacks and reprisals on July 3-4 
targeting Georgian and South Ossetian officials (ref C). 
Georgian media reported that two people were killed and 10 
wounded in a mortar attack on Tskhinvali on the night of July 
3, several hours after the attack on Sanakoyev's motorcade 
(ref D).  OSCE monitors confirmed that three persons were 
wounded in the attack, and its investigation into the 
incident was unable to determine the origin of the attack. 
Subsequent gunfire was reported in the Georgian villages of 
Nuli and Kekhvi early on July 5, but there were no 
casualties.  Following the attack on Sanakoyev, the Georgian 
government temporarily withdrew its peacekeepers from the 
Joint Peacekeeping Forces (JPKF) command center in Tskhinvali 
to the Georgian village of Nikozi, shortly before the 
shelling of Tskhinvali began.  Several rounds exploded near 
the JPKF command center, fueling speculation among the 
Russian and South Ossetian peacekeepers that the Georgian 
peacekeepers knew about the attack in advance and withdrew to 
safety beforehand.  (Comment:  OSCE has no evidence of 
Georgian participation in the attacks or that the Georgian 
PKF knew about the attack in advance, but expressed concern 
that the Russian and South Ossetian suspicions will poison 
the atmosphere of trust that had been developing between the 
members of the JPKF prior to the latest incidents.  End 
comment). 
 
6.  (C) Following the events of July 3-4, Georgian media 
reported accusations from both sides concerning the movement 
of additional heavy military equipment into the security 
zone.  OSCE is currently investigating reports that the South 
Ossetians have brought in four D40 howitzers, 11 BMP armored 
personnel carriers and six ZU-23 anti-aircraft guns into the 
zone.  South Ossetian de-facto interior minister Mikheil 
Mindzayev also accused Georgia of bringing in heavy military 
hardware to "bomb" residential areas.  OSCE confirmed the 
presence of two new Georgian BMPs armed with ZU-23 
anti-aircraft guns (Note: the ZU-23, when mounted on a BMP, 
can be used to target ground forces and is considered a heavy 
weapon.  End note).  OSCE reported on July 7 that the 
Georgians were in the process of withdrawing the two 
ZU-23-armed BMPs, which are considered heavy weaponry and 
thus in violation of the cease-fire agreement. 
 
TEFFT

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