Georgia: UN finds rocket attack could not have come from behind Abkhaz lines
A rocket attack in north-western Georgia, where fighting between the Government and Abkhaz separatists 14 years ago forced nearly 300,000 refugees to flee their homes, could not have been launched from the Restricted Weapons Zone in Abkhazia, as had been previously reported, United Nations observers reported today.
The UN mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) said its investigators found that, while the GRAD rockets’ country of origin could not be determined, the attack last Thursday could not have been launched from the Tkvarcheli district, some 30 kilometres away, into the upper Kodori valley in the vicinity of Azhara.
Since the rocket engines found around Azhara were still working at the time of impact, their flight time was shorter and the distance covered from their launch site could only have been a fraction of their normal range. They must therefore have been launched from a location significantly closer to Azhara, UNOMIG added.
In the southerly direction, from which the rockets were launched, the southern ridge of the Kodori valley opposite Azhara rises to 1200-1400 meters. Given the normal trajectory of a GRAD rocket during the propelled phase, the investigation team concluded that the most likely scenario is that they were fired with the help of an improvised launcher from a location along that southern ridge.
Last month, the UN Security Council called on Secretary-General Kofi Annan to explore with both sides how they can build confidence, improve security and reduce tensions in the upper Kodori Valley and the districts of Gali and Zugdidi.
UNOMIG, set up in 1993 and expanded following the signing by the parties of the 1994 Agreement on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces to verify compliance, currently has some 130 uniformed personnel, including 121 military observers and 12 police, supported by 100 international civilian personnel and 178 local civilian staff.