Kidnapping is a national pastime in Georgia. The former Soviet republic has been infiltrated from rebels operating in Abkhazia and Ossetia that often result to kidnapping for some extra cash. In the most recent development, the body of the father of LUKoil’s vice president was discovered, Georgian presidential press secretary Kakha Imnadze told journalists.
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze offered his deep condolences to the Sharifov family and expressed hopes that the murder would not aggravate relations between the Georgian and Azeri peoples.
Seventy-nine-year-old Sadi Sharifov was taken hostage in the village of Pantiani on December 1. Eight armed individuals in masks and camouflage burst into Sharifov’s home. The attackers took Sharifov hostage and escaped in his Niva. About 30 kilometres outside Tbilisi, they abandoned the car and fled. On December 5, Georgian media quoted a parliamentary source as saying that the abductors demanded USD 400,000 for the man’s release.
Meanwhile, the mother of Mrs. Dzhumber Tkebuchava, vice president of the oil company Slavneft, has been kidnapped in the Abkhaz town of Tkvarcheli, sources in Abkhaz law enforcement agencies were quoted as saying. According to the sources, several unidentified people entered the house of Tkebuchava’s mother, led her out, and drove her off to an unknown destination. Russian President Vladimir Putin has pushed Georgia to crack down on rebel forces. Some 60 rebels, including ethnic Arabs, may still be in the Pankisi Gorge, Georgian State Security Minister Valery Khaburdzania was quoted as saying. “The appropriate special services are working on cleansing the gorge of all armed people,” he said.
Georgian special services have been conducting an anti-criminal operation in the Pankisi Gorge since August. Before this operation, the Georgian authorities admitted the presence of up to 800 Chechen and Arab rebels in the gorge. (728)