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Young people from Pankisi continue to join IS

By Tea Mariamidze
Tuesday, April 7
Two more young men have departed for Syria from Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge to join the Islamic State (IS), a radical Islamist group that has seized large swathes of territory in eastern Syria and across northern and western Iraq.

According to family members, 16 year-old Muslim Ushnatashvil and 18 year-old Ramaz Bagatashvili crossed the Turkey-Syria border two days ago.

Relatives say that they left without the consent of their families. However, exactly who helped them to leave the country remains unclear.

The families speak about Wahhabis, who usually attract young men and recruit them to participate in military actions in Syria.

The families of the juveniles asked the Ministry of Internal Affairs for help.

The gorge’s elders held a demonstration on April 6.

The demonstrators stated that there is a group in the gorge that psychologically influences youths to join IS.

According to locals, about 100 Pankisi residents are fighting for the Islamic State, up to ten have already been killed there.

The MIA General Inspection is investigating how the underage men managed to cross the Turkey-Syria border without the consent of their parents.

The opposition is accusing the current government of ignoring the issue.

The government has adopted a law against this tendency.

The draft sets out punishment for those participating in illegal extremist organizations.

Khaso Khangoshvili, the Head of the gorge’s Elders’ Council, said if the government does not develop a strategy towards the gorge, the flow of fighters in Syria will raise questions about state security.

Locals state that questions remain on how the law will discourage the flow, when the individuals have a rather “safe” reason to leave the country – seeking jobs in Turkey.