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Eleven people killed in Tskhinvali explosion

By Temuri Kiguradze
Monday, October 6
Eleven people have died and several have been wounded in a bomb blast in Tskhinvali, the capital of Georgia’s breakaway region South Ossetia. The separatist authorities state that the explosion happened at about 17.00 PM local time near the headquarters of the Russian peacekeepers.

According to information from the South Ossetian Press and Information Committee, the explosive had been placed in a vehicle parked near the HQ; the power of the blast was evaluated as equivalent to 20 kilogrammes of TNT. The Deputy Chief of the Russian Infantry Forces, interviewed by Russian news agency Interfax, stated that the head of the South Ossetian peacekeeping forces HQ, Ivan Petrik, has been killed by the blast.

Marat Kulakhmetov, head of the Russian peacekeeping forces, said that the vehicle in which the bomb had been placed had been seized earlier by a Russian patrol unit close to Tskhinvali, as firearms and hand grenades had been found in the vehicle. The car was brought to Tskhinvali and the explosive went off when an additional search was carried out inside the car, Kulakhmetov said, according to Interfax news agency.

“The vehicle had been transported to the headquarters of the Peacekeeping forces so we could determine who it belonged to. On headquarters territory the explosive placed in the vehicle was then activated, most probably by a radio-controlled detonator,” stated the de facto Interior Ministry of the separatist region.

The Russian media reports that civilians were among those killed and wounded. The wounded have been transported to the hospital of Russian town Vladikavkaz. The condition of four of them is considered to be “very critical.” “The investigation group looking into this case has found every reason to suppose that this explosion was organized by Georgian special forces in order to destabilize the situation [in South Ossetia],” said official representative of Russian prosecutors’ office Vladimir Markov, quoted by RIA-Novosti news agency. The order for Russian law-enforcers to investigate the explosion was given directly by President of Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev, as the Kremlin’s official press service reports.

The leader of the South Ossetian separatists has also blamed Georgia for the blast. In an official statement Eduard Kokoity said that he “recognized the signature” of Georgian special forces. The Georgian Interior Ministry however has denied any involvement with the blast. A Ministry spokesperson stated that the incident was a provocation by Russian special forces, designed “to slow down the process of the withdrawal of Russian occupation troops from the territories near the conflict zones.” Speaking to local journalists on October 3, Temur Iakobashvili, the Georgian State Minister for Reintegration, had warned about the possibility of provocations in and around South Ossetia, as the deadline [October 10] for the withdrawal of the Russian troops from the areas adjacent to the breakaway region was approaching.

Leader of Georgian opposition party “New Rights,” David Gamkrelidze, joined Kokoity in accusing the Georgian Government of possible provocation. “He [President Saakashvili] understands that his power is under threat and will do everything to maintain power, including staging provocations to keep the situation tense in the conflict zones,” he said on Kavkasia TV’s talk show late on October 2. He also suggested that “provocations may also be staged” which would affect EU observers, who according to the agreements signed by the EU and Russia have begun monitoring the areas adjacent to Abkhazia and South Ossetia this week.