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Six Die in S.Ossetia Shootout
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 2 Aug.'08 / 09:54

Six people were reportedly killed and 22 injured in the worst violence in years in the South Ossetian conflict zone late on August 1 and overnight on August 2.

Both sides have accused each other of opening fire first.

Authorities in breakaway South Ossetia said that six people were killed and 15 injured after the Georgian side opened fire in the evening on August 1, followed by shelling of the capital Tskhinvali late on August 1 and overnight on August 2.

According to the Russian command of the peacekeeping forces in the conflict zone, one South Ossetian militiaman was killed by a sniper located in a Georgian police post close to the village of Prisi at about 6:17pm local time on August 1.

The Russian peacekeepers also reported that snipers, starting from about 9pm local time on August 1, killed at least three people in Tskhinvali. The Russian peacekeeping command also reported late on August 1 that Tskhinvali also came under mortar fire from the Georgian villages of Ergneti and Zemo Nikozi, which are close to the breakaway region’s capital.

The South Ossetian side said that shelling and shooting resumed overnight on August 2.

Authorities in Tskhinvali also said that a serviceman of the North Ossetian peacekeeping battalion was among the dead. The Joint Peacekeeping Forces in the conflict zone consists of Russian, Russia’s North Ossetian and Georgian battalions.

Mamuka Kurashvili, a Georgian Defense Ministry official in charge of overseeing peacekeeping operations, said that the Georgian side had opened fire in response to shelling of Georgian villages.

Six civilians and one Georgian policeman were injured as a result of shelling of the Georgian villages of Zemo Nikozi, Kvemo Nikozi, Nuli and Ergneti, the Georgian Interior Ministry said.

Kurashvili said that it was one of the most “outrageous” attacks carried out by the South Ossetian side.

He also said that the Georgian side suspected the Russian peacekeepers were also engaged in the shelling of the Georgian villages.

Eduard Kokoity, the South Ossetian leader, said late on August 1 that the Georgian side was conducting “a sniper war.”

“It is an attempt to engage us in a large-scale military conflict,” he said. “Ukraine and the United States are also responsible for this, because Ukraine has handed over to Georgia 40 sniper rifles and the United States – 120 sniper rifles… So far the South Ossetian side has refrained from any response, but we are not going to refrain any more.”

The latest violence is the most serious in the region since the skirmishes of August, 2004.  

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