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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kidnapped Spanish Businessmen Safe

TBILISI, Georgia - Two Spaniards who were kidnapped in Georgia last week are being held in a border region and are in no immediate danger, President Eduard Shevardnadze said Monday.

?The kidnapped Spanish businessmen are being held in the Pankisi Gorge and there is no threat to their life as of today,? Shevardnadze told a weekly news conference. ?Law enforcement bodies are doing their best to free them as soon as possible.?

Masked assailants abducted Francisco Rodriguez and Antonio Tremino on Thursday as they were traveling to the international airport outside the capital Tbilisi. The kidnappers' car was later found abandoned in the Akhmet district, on the border with breakaway Chechnya, some 300 kilometers east of Tbilisi.

Shevardnadze said that the kidnappers' motives were unclear.

?We cannot exclude ... that this has been done to jeopardize our relations with foreign businessmen, but at the same time we cannot rule out that it is a routine crime,? he said.

He said that security services had to improve the registration of foreigners staying in Georgia and step up efforts to protect foreigners.

On Sunday, Interior Minister Kakhi Targamadze and Security Minister Vakhtang Kutateladze sought help in securing the foreigners' release from influential elders of the district. The Akhmet district, including the Pankisi Gorge, is temporarily home to about 7,000 refugees from Chechnya, where Russian forces have battled rebels for 15 months.

A wave of kidnappings and killings of Russians and foreigners has hit the Caucasus region since Moscow's first and unsuccessful 1994-96 war against the Chechen separatists.

Rodriguez works for a Georgian-Spanish export joint venture. Tremino was visiting Rodriguez at the time of the kidnapping, his family has said.