The ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia came under heavy criticism from the parliamentary opposition over the November 21-22 anti-terrorist operation in Tbilisi, during which, according to unconfirmed reports, senior ISIS member Ahmed Chatayev was killed.
Opposition politicians say Chataev’s alleged infiltration into Georgia highlights weaknesses of the country’s security system. They also slam the government for its decision to release Chatayev in 2013, few months after his arrest in the Lopota gorge clash, when a group of militants fought against the Georgian security forces.
Nika Rurua of the opposition United National Movement said if Chatayev’s death was confirmed, it would mean “that the security system in the country is in complete disorder.” “As far as I know, he was released through the efforts of senior Georgian Dream’s politicians, including Eka Beselia (chair of the Parliament’s committee for legal issues) and others. This person left Georgia, committed a horrible terrorist act in Istanbul and returned back to the country as if nothing had happened,” Rurua noted.
“Very serious questions have been raised in terms of the country’s security and border protection systems,” said MP Salome Samadashvili of the United National Movement. “Of course, we are interested in what the State Security Service spends its efforts on, when its budgetary funding is increasing day-by-day.”
In the words of MP Sergi Kapanadze of the European Georgia, “it is very important” that the Head of the State Security Service appears before the lawmakers to answer their “legitimate” questions on the anti-terrorist operation.
“Several important questions have been raised. First of all, they relate to whether one of the killed [gunmen] was Chatayev,” Kapanadze said, also inquiring “how an ISIS member entered Georgia and what were the goals of the group.”
Members of the parliamentary majority responded to the statements with counter-criticism, and called on the opposition to wait for the results of the investigation.
“We will not accept such impudent accusations from anyone, especially from those people, who themselves committed terrorist acts in their own country. I can recollect a lot of such facts - terrorist acts plotted by them, fabricated terrorist acts, killing their own citizens,” said GDDG lawmaker Eka Beselia.
Vakhtang Gomelauri, head of the State Security Service of Georgia, said on November 26 that “there are suspicions” that one of the gunmen killed in the November 22 anti-terrorist operation in Tbilisi could be Ahmed Chatayev. Earlier, Georgian sources, as well as Russian and Turkish media, also reported on Chatayev’s death.
Ahmed Chatayev, a Russian national of Chechen origin suspected in masterminding the 2016 Istanbul airport bombings, had been listed as terrorist by the U.S. Treasury in 2015 for planning attacks against unspecified U.S. and Turkish facilities. In 2015, he was also added to the UN Security Council’s Al-Qaida Sanctions List. Chatayev is wanted by the Russian authorities as well.