Georgia: Jihad in the Backyard
Alleged terror plots, thwarted by Georgian police, have became a fresh stick with which to bash political rivals in divided Georgia. But any link between the supposed plots and a recent YouTube video threatening retribution against Georgia for its participation in NATO's Afghanistan campaign remains unclear.
Police on June 13 recovered a significant stash of explosives and firearms from a Tbilisi apartment and arrested two men for allegedly plotting an act of terror, the interior ministry said. The two men, Mikail Kadiev and Rizvan Omarov, have Russian passports, and are presumed to hail from Russia's North Caucasus.
The arrest was preceded by appearance of a YouTube video, in which supposed Taliban fighters threaten to come to Georgia to wreak punishment for Georgian soldiers' "crusade" in Afghanistan.
Thanks to their presence in Afghanistan and last year’s crackdown on supposed North Caucasus fighters near the border with Russia's Daghestan, the Georgian government is not without its enemies in the Islamic world. The video, however, was posted from Georgia; a fact that has prompted some to believe it is linked to domestic political rivalry and to Moscow’s attempts to encourage anti-NATO sentiments.
Whatever is the case, in their reactions to this chain of events Georgian politicians are doing what they do best – accusing one another. A member of President Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement, parliamentarian Givi Targamadze, alleged that Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s office could be behind the video, 24Saati reported. Ivanishvili, in turn, said that the Saakashvili crowd is better at making fake videos, citing as an example Imedi TV’s 2010 hoax report about a Russian invasion.
Ivanishvili snubbed a National Security Council meeting about the jihad threat and Afghanistan security measures. He said that the Council, led by Saakashvili’s right-hand-man, Giga Bokeria, is a useless office.
What was supposed to be a bipartisan discussion of security threats eventually got reduced to attempts by the Saakashvili team to show that they still matter, and Ivanishvili’s attempts to show that they don’t.
And so the pattern continued with yesterday's arrests. The interior ministry informed the public that one of the suspects used to live at an apartment owned by President Saakashvili’s “personal pilot.” The presidential office was quick to accuse the ministry, which is loyal to Ivanishvili, of trying to smear the president.
“Linking the president’s name to the videos or terror plots in any shape or form is a clear provocation,” said presidential spokesperson Andro Barnov, news outlets reported. The "personal pilot" to whom the ministry referred worked for an aviation company which the presidential security service had simply hired, he added.
The two sides are so busy with their own jihads against each other that Georgia is unlikely to get a reliable update about the state of the alleged Islamic jihad threat anytime soon.
Giorgi Lomsadze is a journalist based in Tbilisi, and author of Tamada Tales.
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