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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shevardnadze Orders Security Crackdown

TBILISI, Georgia -- Just over one month after surviving an assassination attempt that has been blamed on political opponents, Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze has announced a sweeping crackdown on the country's security structures aimed at creating order in the runup to November's parliamentary and presidential elections.


In a dramatic address Sunday following a meeting of Georgia's top law enforcement officials, Shevardnadze called the Aug. 29 bomb attack that left him shaken but unharmed the "agonized cry" of "criminals and mafiosi" in Georgia's law enforcement agencies, and declared it "an attempt to flagrantly bring a halt to the constitutional process of building Georgian statehood."


Criminal infiltration had reached into the highest levels of the National Security Service -- the former KGB -- and the Rescue Corps, Shevardnadze said. Had these criminal elements succeeded in their "terrorist attack" on his life, he said, "it would ... have been the beginning of a coup.


"As the suspects said during interrogation, the organizers of this 'coup' were planning to set up another 'military council' or a so-called national salvation committee," Shevardnadze said.


Dramatic evidence of this infiltration came earlier in the day Sunday, when Interior Ministry chief Shota Kviraia officially accused former security minister Igor Giorgadze of masterminding the attack. Shevardnadze confirmed this accusation following his speech Sunday.


Giorgadze was sacked less than a week after the bombing, although he was not implicated in the attack at that time. He fled to Moscow on Sept. 4 with the aid of Georgian special forces loyal to him, and is still believed to be in the Russian capital.


Georgian state television reported Monday that a group from the Interior Ministry and the prosecutor's office had left for Moscow in order to bring him back. It said they had received a letter from the Russian Prosecutor General's Office offering full cooperation.


Kviraia said that opponents of President Boris Yeltsin had aided Giorgadze in the bombing, a charge, Shevardnadze said, "that is currently being investigated."


Giorgadze's father, Panteleimon, who is the Communist candidate in the Nov. 5 presidential elections, has not been accused of complicity in the assassination attempt, although Kviraia said that the attack was planned in his apartment.


Shevardnadze also took decisive action against the organization of warlord Dzhaba Iosseliani, head of the notorious Mkhedrioni paramilitary group, which had been granted the status of a government agency, the Rescue Corps, by the Georgian parliament. Shevardnadze signed an order Sunday annulling the corps' official status, and dissolving all but its regional divisions.


The Rescue Corps had been "molded into a refuge for criminal elements," Shevardnadze said. "Many members and some of the leaders of the corps themselves broke the law with arms, blackmail and violence, operating through various clans and mafiosi groups created with their help and protection."


Iosseliani himself has not been charged with any crime, and remains at liberty in Tbilisi. Police said, however, that a search of his offices in the parliament building immediately after the Aug. 29 attack had turned up drugs and weapons.


Other members of the corps' leadership have been arrested in connection with terrorist attacks that have claimed the lives of three top political figures over the past year.


With the top ranks of the security service depleted by arrests and dismissals, and the Rescue Corps eliminated as a government body, the Georgian government's war on organized crime will be conducted exclusively by the Interior Ministry, which has emerged from the fallout of the bomb attack on Shevardnadze with redoubled influence. Shevardnadze praised the ministry and Kviraia personally, for their work exposing criminal infiltration of the government.


?A man hijacked a bus in Georgia on Sunday, shot dead a woman and set off a grenade which killed a male passenger before security forces seized him, a government official said, Reuters reported.


At least 10 of the 35 passengers were hurt, six of them seriously, a police source said. Acting Security Minister Avtandil Ioseliani said the lone hijacker threw the dead woman's body out of the window after seizing the bus in Kutaisi in the west of the republic bordering the Black Sea, Reuters reported.