One killed in attack on Georgia rebel region leader

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Feb. 22, 2012, 11:20 a.m. | Russia and former Soviet Union — by Reuters


MOSCOW - The leader of a Russian-backed Georgian breakaway region narrowly survived an assassination attempt on Wednesday that killed one of his bodyguards and badly wounded another, local media reported. Abkhazia, a sliver of land along the Black Sea coast, has been racked by turmoil and ethnic tension since breaking away from Tbilisi's rule as the Soviet Union collapsed two decades ago.

The Kremlin recognised Abkhazia as an independent state after a 2008 war in which Russia crushed a Georgian attempt to take control of another breakaway region, South Ossetia. Russia dominates the two regions which Georgia claims as its own.

Authorities in Abkhazia said their self-styled leader, Alexander Ankvab, was not wounded when a remote controlled mine exploded in the path of his cortege as he was driven to work.

Attackers then opened fire with machine guns and a grenade launcher, local media said.

"Abkhaz President Alexander Ankvab was not wounded in the assassination attempt and is now at his desk," his head of security, Anri Bogua, was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

"One guard has been killed and one is in an extremely grave condition," Bogua said.

Ankvab has been the target of at least four assassination attempts in the past, including an attack on his house with a grenade launcher while he was vice president.

Officials in Abkhazia say they are trying to use Russian protection to grasp independence and throw off centuries of Georgian domination.

But Georgia says the region is completely dominated by Moscow and is being used as a hideout for Russian criminal gangs and corrupt officials.
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