The Georgian State Security Service (SSS) says that five individuals who were arrested in Georgia’s Muslim-populated Pankisi gorge earlier today were members of terrorist organisation Islamic State (IS) and had plans to leave for Syria.
The agency said that one of the five detainees was the leader of the group and was ‘open to saying’ he was a member of IS.
The detainees systematically wore the symbols of IS,” said the agency.
The family members of the detainees have told journalists that the individuals ‘had nothing to do with terrorists.’
A local in Pankisi, Malkhaz Machalikashvili, whose 19-year-old son Temirlan Machalikashvili was killed in a counter-terrorism operation back in 2017, says that the arrest is connected with the October 2 municipal elections.
Such arrests are usual ahead of elections and are a part of a PR campaign,” Machalikashvili told RFE/RL.
Machalikashvili says that his son was innocent and was killed mistakenly in the ‘poorly planned’ operation.