Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 174

Gunmen attacked a vehicle carrying staffers of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) in the center of Abkhazia’s capital Sukhumi during the night of September 21-22. Three military observers and the group’s Abkhaz driver were wounded. The three officers (two Bangladeshis and one Nigerian) were airlifted to neighboring Turkey for surgery. Abkhaz leaders speculated that the “terrorist” attack sought to prove that Abkhaz authorities are unable to provide security in their own capital for the UN mission (AP, Itar-Tass, September 22). Last February, four UNOMIG officers were taken hostage on territory controlled by Georgian authorities, who negotiated their release.

Also during the night of September 21-22, the motorcade of President Eduard Shevardnadze’s plenipotentiary representative Iveri Chelidze was ambushed by unidentified gunmen in the Kodori Gorge. Four men (according to another version, six) accompanying Chelidze were wounded in the attack. The area around Kodori is the only one in Abkhazia still under Georgian control (Itar-Tass, Georgian TV, September 22).

Whatever the motives behind them, the attacks did not derail a regular UN-mediated meeting of Georgian and Abkhaz negotiators held in Tbilisi yesterday. The attacks were the latest in a recent spate of such incidents in Abkhazia. Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement blaming Georgians and Abkhaz for shooting at Russian military posts and patrols last week (Russian agencies, September 20, 22).