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The News in Brief

Tuesday, December 29
IS commander from Pankisi reportedly captured by US/Kurdish commandos

Tarkhan Batirashvili, A.K.A. Abu Omar al-Shishani, a notorious IS field commander from Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge, was reportedly seized by Kurdish and American commandos in Northern Iraq on Friday.

Media reports about Abu Omar’s arrest spread by the Russian Tass news agency and several Kurdish websites still have to be confirmed officially.

Reportedly, Abu Omar was captured in the town of Hawija, about 20 kms to Kirkuk, a Kurdish city close to Mosul.

Tass, which relies on the EIN news agency, states that the special operation against IS was carried out by American Special Task Forces. However, according to some Kurdish accounts, the operation was carried out by Kurdish commandos backed by American Special Task Forces and US helicopters.

Along with Abu Omar, two more IS field commanders were captured during the raid, and seven militiamen were killed. One American soldier was killed during the raid.

According to the media accounts, approximately 100 US Special Forces troops arrived in Iraq on December 21 to back Kurdish forces in the fight against IS.

The US State Department was offering $5 million for any information related to Tarkhan Batirashvili, now known as Omar Al-Shishani, as he was declared a wanted terrorist.

Batirashvili is a citizen of Georgia, an ethnic Kist and comes from the village Birkiani, in the Pankisi Valley in eastern Georgia.
(DF watch)

PM-Designate: Kaladze to Retain Deputy PM’s Position

PM-designate Giorgi Kvirikashvili said on Sunday that Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze will retain his position of Deputy PM in his cabinet, while the other Vice Premier’s position is likely to be held by the Minister of Economics, Dimitri Kumsishvili.

Kvirikashvili served as Foreign Minister and Deputy PM in the cabinet led by Irakli Garibashvili, who announced his resignation on December 23. Kvirikashvili plans no changes in the government, and has nominated the same cabinet members for confirmation by Parliament. The only newcomer in the cabinet will be the former First Deputy Foreign Minister, Mikheil Janelidze, whom Kvirikashvili has named as his replacement to the post of Foreign Minister.

“It is not ruled out that I will continue working with this existing team, but it is not ruled out either that I will make certain changes in the future,” Kvirikashvili told journalists at the ski resort of Bakuriani, where he attended the opening of new skiing infrastructure.

Meanwhile, President Giorgi Margvelashvili welcomed once again the change of the PM and the nomination of Kvirikashvili as a Prime Ministerial candidate.

“This is the right decision, which will be useful for the state,” President Margvelashvili said in an interview with Tbilisi-based Imedi TV on December 26.

Later, while speaking about the need to hold next year’s parliamentary elections in a calm and competitive atmosphere, the President was asked if he’s hopeful that Kvirikashvili will provide such conditions in the lead up to and during the elections planned for next autumn. Margvelashvili responded: “The future head of the government, I think, is a very balanced person, who has… a clear vision about our country’s foreign policy.”

Confirmation hearings in Parliament will start on December 28 with the vote planned for December 29.

Parliamentary committee hearings, as well as the PM-designate and his cabinet members’ meetings, separately with lawmakers from the UNM and Free Democrats opposition parties and the GD ruling coalition, will be held from early afternoon till late Monday evening, followed by a parliamentary session and debates, with the final vote on Tuesday.

Parliament to vote for new Cabinet on December 29

Parliament will vote for a new Cabinet on December 29, according to Vice Speaker Zviad Dzidziguri.

According to Zviad Dzidziguri, sessions of various government committees and factions will be held on 28 and 29 December in Kutaisi. On December 29, a plenary session is planned to be held.

‘The session will presumably begin at 13:00 on December 29. Initially, there will be committee meetings, and then the new Cabinet members issue will be discussed. The factions will also pose questions to the PM-designate and the proposed government members,’ Dzidziguri said.