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Recent violent surge in Russian-Georgian conflict

Video by Philip CROWTHER , KARINA CHABOUR , Cédric MOLLE LAURENCON

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-10-26

Fresh wounds are slow to heal. A local mayor and a villager were killed in an explosion on Saturday near Georgia's breakaway province of Abkhazia. The blast occurred as police were investigating a separate grenade attack.

Two people were killed in an explosion near Georgia's rebel region of Abkhazia Saturday, highlighting continued tensions over the country's Russian-backed breakaway provinces.
   
A town mayor, Gia Meboniya, and a Georgian villager died in the blast, which occurred as police and officials were investigating a grenade attack on an empty home in the border village of Muzhava, Georgian interior ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili told AFP.
   
A police officer was also injured and was in stable condition.
   
Police suspected Abkhaz militants were behind the attack, he said.
   
Three grenades were fired at the home early Saturday and a remote-controlled bomb was set off a few hours later after officials arrived to investigate the attack, he said.
   
"This was clearly aimed at the police because they knew the police would go there to investigate," Utiashvili said.
   
The head of police in Abkhazia's Gali district, Lawrence Kogoniya, denied any attacks had taken place.
   
"Over the last 24 hours there have been no incidents or firing in settlements on the border with Georgia," he told Russia's Interfax news agency.
   
Tensions remain high around Abkhazia and another rebel Georgian region, South Ossetia, following a war in August between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia.
   
Russian forces moved into Georgia on August 8 to repel a Georgian military attempt to retake the Moscow-backed rebel region. Under a European Union-brokered ceasefire, Russian forces later withdrew to within the two rebel regions, which Moscow recognised as independent states.
   
An EU mission is monitoring the ceasefire, patrolling around South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but Russia has not allowed them inside the rebel regions.
   
Tbilisi on Friday said Russian forces had blown up a railway bridge connecting Abkhazia with western Georgia in what it said was an attempt to isolate ethnic Georgians living in the rebel region.
   
Georgia had earlier accused Russia of deploying an additional 2,000 troops in South Ossetia, bringing the total number of Russian soldiers there to about 7,000. Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze denounced the alleged troop build-up as "a provocation aimed at maintaining instability in Georgia."
   
Russia denied that additional forces had been deployed and said it was sticking to plans to keep a total of about 7,600 soldiers in the two rebel regions.
   
Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Georgian control during wars in the early 1990s that killed thousands and forced tens of thousands from their homes.

Date created : 2008-10-26

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