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Kakheti Governor Says Pankisi Elders Face Suppression

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, January 5
(AKHMETA, Georgia)--Kakheti region governor Irakli Kadagishvili says that the elders of Georgia’s Muslim populated Pankisi Gorge are being suppressed by certain media outlets and individuals, in the wake of two major anti-terror raids in the country.

Kadagishvili says the elders of the Gorge in the country’s east, who are regarded as the most respected people in Pankisi, have met with Georgian law enforcement officials and they are “well-aware” of the terrorist threats.

“Some media outlets and individuals are doing their best to suppress these people to make them say something against the government and stir up confrontations. The situation is very complicated,” said Kadagishvili. “. . . the people, the elders, saw the threats and understood the importance of joint activities to prevent taking the gorge’s youth by terrorists,” he added.

The statement followed the counter-terrorist raid in Tbilisi on November 21-22, which left three members of the operation killed, including Islamic State affiliate Ahmed Chatayev who blew himself up. The December 26 raid in Pankisi Gorge ended with four detained for sharing alleged links with Chatayev. The fifth suspect, a 19-year-old Temirlan Machalikashvili, was severely wounded in the head.

Kadagishvili says, the elders saw some parts of the materials, which confirmed the connection of the four detainees and the wounded with Chatayev’s group. The group allegedly planned attacks on diplomats in Georgia and Turkey.

However, the families of detainees and Machalikashvili dismiss any statements regarding connections with terrorists. Malkhaz Machalikashvili, a father of the 19-year-old suspect who is being treated in Tbilisi, says his son was shot in bed and he will address the European Court of Human Rights to reveal the truth.

The current health condition of Machalikashvili is critical and as his father says he will be transported abroad for treatment. The expenses for treatment will be covered by the state.

The 19-year old’s family has invited an independent expert to conduct the investigation.

Over years, the involvement of youngsters from Pankisi Gorge in Islamic terrorist groups in Syria or Iraq has dramatically increased.

The Georgian Dream government claims they have taken various steps to prevent the flow of enrollment by encouraging the local youth to enroll in the Georgian army as an alternative or start a small business.