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Man ‘blows himself up’ at TV centre in Georgian breakaway region

October 17, 2016

Separatist authorities in Abkhazia, a Russian-backed breakaway region of Georgia, said Monday they had opened a terror probe after an unidentified man blew himself up at the state-run TV headquarters.

Abkhaz interior minister Aslan Kobakhiya was quoted by Russian news agency RIA Novosti as saying that a man who was “obviously” carrying a bomb had detonated it Monday morning on the premises of the TV station in the capital Sukhumi.

Interfax news wire reported that the blast occurred at the entrance to the TV channel’s main building.

It cited the separatist region’s emergency services ministry as saying the “corpse of a bearded man” was found at the scene.

Sukhumi prosecutor Ruslan Tyrkba told Interfax that a criminal investigation had been opened into a possible terror attack.

Earlier, the region’s president Raul Khajimba insisted that it was “too early to talk about an attempted terrorist attack”.

“Let’s wait for the results of the investigation. We have not even managed to identify the man who blew himself up,” Khajimba, a former officer in the Soviet-era KGB spy agency, told Interfax.

As a precautionary measure Khajimba ordered boosted security around public places, including schools and kindergartens, in the Black Sea region of some 250,000 people.

Abkhazia has claimed independence from Georgia since an armed conflict in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Russia recognised the region as independent following a brief conflict with Georgia in 2008 over another breakaway region, South Ossetia, and has thousands of troops stationed there.

Georgia insists that the two regions are under de facto Russian occupation.

Abkhazia has seen a protracted political standoff between the region’s self-declared authorities and the opposition since former leader Alexander Ankvab was ousted in 2014.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.