UPDATE: Interior Ministry says all hostages released, operation to detain attacker continues

  • An armed individual initially kept 23 people in hostage including employees of the Bank of Georgia branch in Zugdidi, but he let some of the hostages leave the building. Photo: Mtavari.tv

Agenda.ge, 22 Oct 2020 - 05:10, Tbilisi,Georgia

Updated: 05:10, October 22

The Georgian Interior Ministry released a statement early in the morning, saying that following the special police operation in Samegrelo region, 'all hostages have been released and their lives and health are no longer in danger.'

The ministry also underscored that the armed attacker on the bank of Georgia bank, which is located at Zviad Gamsakhurdia Avenue in Zugdidi, initially took 43 people hostage.

Thanks to the police efforts, as a result of difficult and long-lasting negotiations, most of the hostages were gradually released during the day, who were replaced by Avtandil Galdava, Director of the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Police Department. Later, Avtandil Galdava along with three other hostages left the bank building with the attacker", the interior ministry statement reads.

It further adds that as all hostages have been released now, law enforcers 'continue intensive operative-investigative and search activities in order to arrest the assailant'.

Updated at 22:51, October 21

An armed attacker in the Bank of Georgia branch in the western Georgian city of Zugdidi has released two more hostages, leaving 16 more in the building, IPN reports from the ground.

The attacker, who has been keeping the hostages for over seven hours now, has demanded half a million USD and security guarantees through one of the hostages, Irakli Kvaratskhelia.

Kvaratskhelia sent a message to opposition-leaning Mtavari Arkhi TV Director General Nika Gvaramia, saying he had been taken hostage and that the attacker wanted to talk to him.

Mtavari Arkhi TV livestreamed Kvaratskhelia, who showed the armed man and the hostages:

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry said in its initial statement that they received information at around 14:21 today that the armed individual ‘broke into the building’ of the Bank of Georgia.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs would like to call on the media sources to observe the security norms, avoid live coverage of the police activities and operation led by the officers from the Special Forces. The mentioned action will pose a threat to the lives and health of citizens and police officers”, the ministry then announced.

It also stated that policemen immediately 'launched an operation to neutralise the assailant’.

However, as various media continued to livestream developments around the Bank of Georgia branch in Zugdidi, the ministry demanded from all media outlets and mobile operators 'to immediately cut off/restrict the live signal from the incident site in order to protect the safety of the hostages and law enforcers, as well as to effectively conduct the police operation'.

Otherwise, the state reserves the right to exercise all respective tools at its disposal provided by the acting legislation to ensure the safety of life and health of our citizens", the First Deputy Interior Minister Kakhaber Sabanadze said at a news briefing. 

Noting that the ministry is sparing no efforts to release hostages and finalise the police operation peacefully, it said live broadcast of the assailant poses a threat to the effective operation of police units.

Mtavari Arkhi TV reported that initially the armed attacker had set a deadline to police till 6 p.m. to satisfy his demands, otherwise, he would kill the hostages.

When the deadline approached, Kvaratskhelia later addressed the authorities via livestream again, urging them to satisfy the attacker's demands to ensure that none of the hostages would suffer.

As of now, police are mobilised around the site, politicians and media are also present on the ground, following the developments. 

Later at night, Irakli Kvaratskhelia, one of the hostages, wrote on his Facebook page that all but three hostages have been released as the attacker received money and left the building.