Bomb Ambush in Abkhazia Injures 3 Police Officers

SUKHUMI, Georgia -- At least three police officers were wounded Friday in the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia after a bomb hit their car and unknown assailants opened fire, an Abkhaz official said.

Abkhaz and some Georgia media said Georgian commandos were responsible for the attack. But a Georgian Interior Ministry official denied any involvement.

Ruslan Kushmariya, a government envoy in Abkhazia's Gali district, said the police patrol car was hit by a bomb followed by gunfire. The three officers were hospitalized with various wounds. He said investigators were trying to determine who was responsible.

Georgia's Rustavi-2 TV reported that Georgian soldiers were involved in the attack and that Georgian Interior Ministry special troops were concentrating near the administrative border separating Abkhazia from the rest of Georgia.

Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utialshvili said all the ministry knew came from media reports, and he denied that any Georgian troops were involved.

"We don't control Gali territory, the separatists do and they blame us for everything. If the weather is bad, they blame us," he said.

Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Zaitsev said the government had ordered a partial mobilization of its armed forces in connection both with the incident and with previously scheduled military exercises set for the coming week. Up to 2,500 troops were expected to participate in the exercises.

Zaitsev also said Abkhaz forces were monitoring reports of trucks carrying suspicious armed personnel seen entering the Kodor Gorge region from the Georgia proper.

Abkhazia and another region, South Ossetia, have had de facto independence from Georgia since breaking away in wars in the early 1990. Tensions have been on the rise in recent years as Georgia's president, Mikheil Saakashvili, has vowed repeatedly to bring both regions back under central government control.

Last fall, Georgian and Abkhaz border guards clashed several times along the administrative boundary.

Though unrecognized by any country, the two regions are supported by Russia, which has stationed peacekeepers in both areas and granted residents Russian passports.

Russia also organized early voting for residents of the regions to cast ballots in its presidential election on Sunday.

On Thursday, an explosive device hidden in a television detonated in South Ossetia, killing two police officers at a polling station set up for the Russian vote.