BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Russian Polish Albanian Greek Czech Ukrainian Serbian Turkish Romanian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Europe  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Friday, 30 August, 2002, 01:04 GMT 02:04 UK
Georgia arrests 'senior Arab militant'
Georgian tanks in the Pankisi Gorge
Georgian troops have been searching the gorge
The Georgian Government says it has arrested a man it suspects of being a "prominent" figure with links to the al-Qaeda Islamic militant network.


We can certainly say... that he is connected to organisations of the type which finally lead to al-Qaeda

Valeri Khaburdzania
state security minister
He was picked up by security forces searching the remote Pankisi Gorge near the border with Russia's war-torn Chechnya region.

State Security Minister Valeri Khaburdzania said the man, an "ethnic Arab", was carrying a French passport believed to be fake.

He was wearing military uniform under his clothes and carrying "Islamic literature" and a map of the gorge.

"In our opinion or, rather, according to our information, he is linked to certain terrorist organisations," the minister told Georgian television.

Map of Georgia showing Pankisi gorge
"We can certainly say that he is connected to organisations of the type which finally lead to al-Qaeda...

"As regards French citizenship, we believe that it is a forged passport."

Mr Khaburdzania said that no force had been used during the arrest and the man was now being interviewed.

He did not rule out extradition proceedings:

"We may have to extradite him because we believe that he is one of the prominent individuals linked to these terrorist organisations and he may have committed more serious crimes on the territory of other countries."

Anti-terror training

The security minister said he had his suspicions about an al-Qaeda connection because of the Pankisi Gorge's links to Khattab, the ethnic Arab commander of a Chechen militant group who was killed earlier this year.

Pankisi Gorge
Home to the Kists, a Muslim community with ethnic links to the Chechens
Local non-Muslims say they have been forced to move out by Chechen refugees
Chechen rebels have long used the gorge as a base
The US believes that al-Qaeda militants may also be active there

Washington has provided Georgia with military instructors to help combat the perceived threat from radical Islamic militants believed to be using the lawless gorge as a base.

News of the arrest came just hours after Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze inaugurated a new phase in the US-funded anti-terrorist training programme.

Under the programme, four 500-man battalions are to be trained over two years at a cost of about $64m.

Georgia has rejected Russia's calls for permission to send its own forces into the Pankisi Gorge to pursue militants seeking refuge there.

Moscow, which is fighting Chechen separatist rebels just over the border, has been accused of mounting air strikes on the gorge, the latest of which, this month, left one civilian dead and seven wounded.

Georgia began a military sweep of the gorge shortly afterwards but reported no resistance.


Key stories

European probe

Background

IN DEPTH
See also:

25 Aug 02 | Europe
05 Aug 02 | Europe
04 Aug 02 | Europe
22 May 02 | Country profiles
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes