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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Veterans Seize Tbilisi Army Base

TBILISI, Georgia -- Nineteen veterans of Georgia's National Guard seized a Tbilisi military base overnight, disarming the guards and bringing several tanks and an armored personnel carrier out of their garages to dramatize their demands for better veterans' benefits, prosecutors said Monday.

The veterans called a number of television stations to say they had mined the base.

Their leader, David Martiashvili, told independent Rustavi-2 television, "If we are attacked, we'll blow everything up."

Military troops surrounded the base, and Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili, Security Minister Valery Khaburdzania, Prosecutor General Nugzar Gabrichidze and other officials negotiated with the veterans throughout the night. The veterans complained that they enjoyed no perks or privileges.

The veterans surrendered peacefully early Monday and were detained. No mines were found, said Akaky Budagishvili, the chief investigator in the prosecutor's office.

At his weekly news conference, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze cast doubt on the veterans' motives, saying "certain forces" stood behind them.

He did not elaborate.

However, some law enforcement officials speculated that at least some of the veterans were loyalists of the late Georgian president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, once a top rival to Shevardnadze.