Published time: April 29, 2013 15:11
Edited time: April 29, 2013 16:05
Georgia is embroiled in scandal amid an investigation into suspicions the country's previous government may have been involved in training extremists. Media reports suggest the key suspect in the Boston bombings participated in such training.
“It is possible that terrorists had been trained in Georgia, but the investigation is underway. Let’s wait for its results. We will get a lot of new information, maybe even some shocking findings. There are suspicions that the authorities worked with terrorists and militants. If this information is confirmed, this will be shocking,” Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili said on April 28.
The comment came in response to allegations in Russian media that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the main suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, may have attended seminars allegedly sponsored by Georgian security officials and a US-based foundation. Some of the classes reportedly encouraged attendees to commit terrorist acts.
Russian daily Izvestia and TV station Russia 1 recently revealed that they obtained a report by Colonel Grigory Chanturia of the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs’ main security service. According to the document, in summer 2012 the Kavkazsky Fund and the Washington, DC-based Jamestown Foundation held events for young residents of the North Caucasus. Tsarnaev, who stayed in Russia from January to June 2012, allegedly attended some of these events.
The Kavkazsky Fund has recruited North Caucasus residents for work serving the interests of the US and Georgia, Russian media reported. The Fund was set up in November 2008, shortly after the Georgia-Ossetia conflict, to “control processes taking place in the North Caucasus region,” according to Chanturia’s report.
The main aim of the Fund was allegedly to recruit young people in the North Caucasus to heighten instability and extremism in Russia’s southern region. Up to $2.5 million was allegedly allocated to finance the Fund as of January 2013. “
To finance the organization a monthly sum of about $20,000 was set up, ” Chanturia said.
The Russian media also reported that the Kavkazsky Fund has had close ties with the US Jamestown Foundation, an “independent, nonpartisan organization” whose mission is to inform and educate policymakers about events and trends of strategic importance to the US. Its board of directors once included former National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Today, the Fund features Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Bruce Riedel, who retired in 2006 after 30 years at the CIA. Riedel was a senior advisor on South Asia and the Middle East to four Presidents in the staff of the National Security Council at the White House, as well as a negotiator at several Arab-Israeli peace summits including Camp David and Wye River.
In 2007, the Jamestown Foundation reportedly held a seminar attended by militants loyal to Aslan Maskhadov, the leader of a Chechen separatist movement and president of the self-proclaimed ‘Republic of Ichkeria.’ During the Second Chechen War in 1999, he led a guerrilla resistance against the Russian army. He was killed in a special operation by security services in 2005.
In an interview with Voice of America, Jamestown denied that it had trained Tsarnaev.
Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs said it had no knowledge of whether Tsarnaev had attended the seminars. “We don’t have such information, we haven’t heard anything of the kind, we don’t know,” Nino Giorgobiani, head of the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs’ press service told RIA Novosti.
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashavili said the previous Georgian government never recruited or trained groups of Chechens with the aim of infiltrating them into the Russian Federation. He learned of Ivanishvili’s comments on the issue while on a working visit to the US. Saakashvili said he was sure “America will not take Ivanishvili’s words seriously,” Izvestiya daily quoted him as saying.