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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spanish Businessmen Kidnapped in Georgia

TBILISI, Georgia - Two Spanish businessmen were kidnapped by armed men Thursday en route to the Georgian capital's international airport, officials and news reports said.

The two Spaniards, who were accompanied by Lieutenant Colonel Sukhan Kobiashvili of the Georgian police, were driving to the airport when their Mercedes car was stopped by four masked men armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles.

The attackers beat Kobiashvili, forced the Spaniards into another vehicle and drove away with the captives, regional prosecutor Vazha Abakeliya said on the independent Rustavi-2 television.

Kobiashvili was hospitalized with serious injuries, Georgian TV reported. The Spanish Foreign Ministry identified the captives as Francisco Rodriguez and Antonio Trivino. Abakeliya, the prosecutor, said they apparently worked for Geomadera, a Spanish-Georgian joint venture engaged in the export of wood and stone.

Georgian television's Moabe (News) program said the captors' car was found abandoned in the Akhmeta area some 300 kilometers east of Tbilisi, where several thousand refugees from Chechnya live now.

Georgia borders on Chechnya, a separatist region in southern Russia where Moscow is waging a war against Muslim rebels.

A wave of kidnappings and killings of Russians and foreigners has hit the region since Moscow's first and unsuccessful 1994-96 war against the separatists, and kidnapping for ransom became a huge industry in Chechnya after Russian troops pulled out.

In August, a French woman and an Italian woman working for the International Committee of the Red Cross were seized in Georgia along with their Georgian driver and held for nine days before being released in a remote mountain gorge near the Chechen border.

The Red Cross said no ransom had been paid for their release. The identity of the kidnappers remained unclear.

In June, four members of a U.N. observer mission were seized and held for ransom in Georgia's separatist region of Abkhazia. The captives - two Danes, a Briton and an Abkhazian - were released several days later without ransom being paid.

Russia has said recently that it will introduce visa regime for Georgian travelers in early December because of concern that Chechen rebels are freely crossing in and out of Georgia.