Reports say that security forces resumed search operations early on Thursday in the villages within the gorge that are currently under the authorities’ control.
Officials said late on July 27 that most of the upper Kodori gorge is under the authorities’ control, but there are a few places where security forces are still encountering resistance.
The police operation in the gorge is expected to be over on July 27, MP Givi Arveladze, chairman of the parliamentary committee for defense and security, said late on Wednesday.
There are conflicting reports about the number of casualties.
Officials have so far confirmed the injury of only two security officers, while reports said earlier that four Interior Ministry employees were wounded.
Speaking from the Kodori gorge on July 27, Nana Lezhava, a journalist for the Tbilisi-based Rustavi 2 television station, said that she has seen three wounded security officers.
Some reports say that at least 18 militia members have been wounded, but officials say that they will comment on casualties among rebel fighters only after the police operation is completely over.
“There is not a single casualty among the peaceful population of the gorge,” MP Targamadze said.
But on July 27 Nora Kvitsiani, sister of the rebel warlord, told Imedi television via phone from Kodori gorge that one elderly woman died after security forces bombed Chkhalta - the village where Kvitsiani was born.
Rustavi 2 TV journalist Nana Lezhava also said that military helicopters were involved in the operation on July 26 and the houses of Kvitsiani and his relatives were bombed, but she said no casualties were reported.
Lezhava was the only reporter accompanying governmental forces from the first day of the operation's launch on July 25 – three days after local warlord Emzar Kvitsiani announced his defiance towards the central authorities.
Speaking from the scene on July 27, Lezhava said that a house-to-house search operation is currently being carried out to seize the “large number of weapon” that is among the local population.
“The locals here are very cooperative. They are handing over arms without any complains… Most of the local population was against of any kind of disobedience announced by Emzar Kvitsiani. The only thing the local population is complaining about are the bad social conditions here,” Lezhava said, speaking via phone from the gorge on a Rustavi 2 TV news program.
It was her first account about situation in the gorge, as phone communication with Kodori was cut off up to now.
She said that the first fighting broke out on July 25 at Sakeni, the village at the entrance of upper Kodori Gorge, when government forces approached the area.
“Since then security forces have been moving slowing ahead searching each house… But then helicopters came into play, as the houses of Emzar Kvitsiani were bombed,” she said, adding that she has no information about Kvitsiani’s whereabouts.
MP Targamadze said that after all militia members are disarmed, the Georgian state will exert its full control over upper Kodori Gorge for the first time since the armed conflict in Abkhazia, which will enable authorities to implement social programs in the gorge.
Influential parliamentarian Giga Bokeria said on July 26 that Georgian police forces will remain in upper Kodori Gorge to protect rule and order there following the completion of the ongoing operation.