February 03, 2006

Assassination attempt on Georgian president foiled

Plot to kill Georgian president foiled.

TBILISI (AFP) - A plot to kill Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili by shooting down his helicopter has been foiled, Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili said.

He said a portable Igla anti-aircraft missile and its launcher had been discovered in the Shida Kartli area, close to the border with the breakaway region of South Ossetia and near a regular flight path of Saakashvili's helicopter.

"Near the flight path used by the Georgian President's helicopter in the Shida Kartli region we found a missile launcher. This was attached to a tree and loaded," he said.

"Georgia has averted an assassination, for a reason that is not yet clear, technical or otherwise, the launcher did not work and remained attached to the tree," Merabishvili said.

The Russian-made Igla surface to air missile is comparable to the American Stinger, using infra-red guidance which can be a threat to low-flying aircraft and helicopters.

Merabishvili said it had not yet been established where the Igla missile had come from, but that a probe into a previous guerrilla attack revealed that a gang in South Ossetia was in possession of several of the missiles.

He said that Georgia would ask for help from the intelligence services in France, Germany, Russia, Turkey and the United States to help determine the origin of the launcher.

In the meantime flights over South Ossetia will be banned, he said.

The two breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia have de facto independence from Georgia, something Saakashvili would like to change.

Georgia accuses Russia of helping the two regions in their independence struggle.

Cross-posted at Vince Aut Morire.

Posted by Kyer at February 3, 2006 01:14 PM | TrackBack