Pankisi Gorge crisis

Pankisi Gorge Operations

Kakheti's location. Kakheti is the region where Pankisi is located.
LocationPankisi Gorge, Georgia
Georgia (country) Georgia Al-Qaeda
Chechen Republic of Ichkeria Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
Commanders and leaders
Georgia (country) Eduard Shevardnadze Abu Atiya[1]
Chechen Republic of Ichkeria Ibn al-Khattab

The Pankisi Gorge crisis was a political crisis with military dimension in Georgia early in the 2000s. Georgia was pressured by Russia and the United States to repress the threats of Al-Qaeda in the Pankisi Gorge.

The ricin crisis

It was largely unknown why Abu Musab al-Zarqawi chose to move into Pankisi Gorge[2] when he could have also struck into Chechnya, where Al-Qaeda's presence was strong. In the build-up to the Iraq War in early 2003, dozens of North Africans (mainly Algerians) were arrested in the United Kingdom, France and Spain on charges of preparing ricin and other chemical weapons. Colin Powell and others trumpeted the arrests as proof of the threat posed by the Zarqawi-Chechen-Pankisi ricin network, which has now been expanded to include the Ansar al-Islam of Kurdish northern Iraq.

French and British security officials were astounded by Powell's insistence on February 12, 2003, saying that "the ricin that is bouncing around Europe now originated in Iraq." With the Iraq invasion only weeks away, the source of the ricin threat moved from Georgia to Iraq.

Sergei Ivanov reported that the Spanish suspects had been trained in Pankisi Gorge by Al-Qaeda terrorists. In the Pankisi Gorge, there were also several Al-Qaeda laboratories that were producing ricin.

Georgian Army operations

By October 20, 2002, Georgia had netted about a dozen Arab militants.[3]

They also caught a car of Chechen militants, after killing the driver. The Georgians and the U.S. led a serious crackdown on the militants that littered the gorge, capturing several soldiers. On September 3, 2003, President Eduard Shevardnadze said that the Georgian security forces had established full control of the Pankisi Gorge. Georgia sent 1,000 police officers and security troops to the region late in October, setting up checkpoints and vowing to impose order.[4]

Georgian officials also said they planned to build up the number of border troops near Chechnya and Ingushetia, another Russian republic. Russia accused Georgia of allowing Chechen fighters to raid across the border. On June 15, 2003, 15 more Chechen militants entered the area and took refuge in a two-story house.[5]

France cracked down on May 14, 2004 by arresting two Algerians working with chemical and biological weapons.[6] Georgia announced the end of the operation and withdrew its Internal Troops from the region by January 21, 2005.[7]

See also


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