The messenger logo

Condition of Wounded Suspect in Anti-Terrorist Raid Remains Critical

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, January 4
(TBILISI)--Health Condition of a 19-year-old Temirlan Machalikashvili, who was shot by Georgian law enforcers in the country’s Muslim-populated Pankisi Gorge on December 26, remains critical.

Machalikashvili is being treated for severe head injuries in capital Tbilisi. The treatment takes place under the observation of a doctor from the U.S.

The family of the wounded youngster claims he was shot in his bed, when he was asleep. They dismiss any links with terrorists. Earlier, it was also reported by media that Machalikashvili was talking on the phone when he was shot.

Father of Machalikashvili has asked law enforcers to show him the materials proving his son’s links with terrorists.

“If they show me the materials, I will say that my son deserved all this,” the father of a 19-year-old told the media.

The Interior Ministry officials met the elders of the Gorge with regard to the issue.

As they said, they showed the part of materials to the most respected elders of the gorge, who in this part of the country have a high authority. The officials claim the materials provide information on links with terrorists.

Georgia’s State Security Service detained four and wounded one in a raid on December 26.

The detainees are Zurab Gornakashvili, Ruslan Aldamov, Ramaz Margoshvili, Badur Chopanashvili. All of them have been sent to pre-trial detention.

The five [including Machalikashvili] are believed to be part of a larger terrorist cell that was headed by the Islamic State terrorist Ahmed Chatayev. Two of the group members were killed in Tbilisi in the November 21-22 raid, and Chatayev, who is believed to be a mastermind of a terrorist attack in Ataturk Airport in Turkey in 2016, blew himself up before he could be apprehended.

According Interior Ministry spokeswoman Nino Giorgobani, police officials seized several computers belonging to the suspects. The data collected from hard drives revealed that members of the cell were planning attacks against diplomats in Georgia and Turkey.

The Interior Ministry believes the group crossed the border of Georgia from Turkey via the Kirnati-Maradidi passport-free zone and later made their way to Tbilisi and to the Pankisi Gorge, a region near the border with Chechnya and populated by Muslim ethnic Chechens.

The Georgian government recently identified the suspects involved in the November shootout that took place in a residential neighbourhood on the outskirts of Tbilisi.

According to the State Security Service, Shoaip Borziyev, a Chechen wanted by Interpol on terrorism charges, was taken into custody by police on November 22. His two accomplices – Chechnya natives Ibrahim Adashev and Aslanbeg Soltakhmadov – were killed in the raid alongside Chatayev.

In 2015, Chatayev was listed as a terrorist by the United States for planning attacks against the U.S. and Turkish facilities.

Born in Vedeno - the same town as a notorious Chechen militant Shamil Basayev - Chatayev was a battle hardened veteran of the 1999-2001 Second Chechen War, where he lost an arm fighting the Russian troops. He later fled to Austria and is believed to have helped recruit and finance volunteers to join Doku Umarov, Basayev’s successor, and help carve out an Islamic state in the North Caucasus.

Chatayev was later arrested on several occasions, including in Sweden and Ukraine, for weapons possession and suspected links to terrorist groups.

Following his arrest in Ukraine, he was deported to Georgia where he took up refuge in the same home village, where Tarkhan Batirashvili – the Chechen native of Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge who would later gain international attention as ISIS’ main field commander using his nom de guerre, Abu Omar al-Shishani - lived.

While in Pankisi, Chatayev was picked up by Georgia’s security services during a 2012 anti-terror operation near Georgia’s border with the North Caucasian region Dagestan. Acting first as a go-between for the Georgian government and the Chechen militants holed up in a mountain compound, Chatayev later switched sides and joined the armed terror group.

He lost his leg in the ensuing raid, but was later released after prosecutors determined there was lack of evidence to try him for terrorist activities.

By 2015, several local media outlets identified Chatayev as having joined ISIS in Syria.

In the summer of 2016, Turkish law enforcers named Chatayev as a mastermind of a terrorist act in the Ataturk Airport claiming 48 lives and leaving more than 200 injured.