Three Pankisi Gorge Residents Questioned Over Ahmed Chatayev Group

Three young Pankisi Gorge residents were questioned this week over their alleged involvement with Ahmed Chatayev’s group, who clashed with Georgian security services on November 21-22 in Tbilisi, according to the Georgian State Security Service (SSS). 

The father of one of the residents remains adamant that his son’s involvement with the terrorism suspects “does not prove anything,” except that Pankisi gorge residents are “hospitable people.” 

The other two individuals whom the SSS questioned this week were Jibrail Kushanashvili and the son of Ramaz (Khizir) Margoshvili. The mother of Kushanashvili told reporters that her son was seen in a photograph together with the group because of a one-off meeting. The other individual was one of the men detained by security services on December 26. 

Several residents of the Pankisi Gorge area say that the group members had visited Georgia many times previously, and that they weren’t suspected of being terrorists. 

One of them, Meqa Khangoshvili, told reporters that the group members “had been entering Georgia over the course of two years legally.” Khangoshvili says they visited Pankisi gorge many times, and “moved freely in all parts of Georgia,” and could not be identified as terrorists by the locals. 

Malkhaz Machalikashvili, Temirlan Machalikashvili’s father, said the suspects “came up to the [Pankisi] gorge and freely moved in Tbilisi.” Machalikashvili also said “at least a half if not the whole gorge knew they came from Russia for business purposes or as tourists. Everyone knew them.”

By Tom Day

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