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4 Oct, 2008 09:04

Tension mounts after South Ossetia blast

The situation in the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinval, remains tense following Friday’s deadly car bomb attack. Following a night on which the sound of gunfire could be heard, the capital’s inhabitants, alarmed at the prospect of further violence on t

Seven Russian peacekeepers were killed and eight more seriously injured in the blast outside the headquarters of the Russian peacekeeping mission in South Ossetian Tskhinval. The Defence Ministry in Moscow has described it as an attempt to disrupt the stability of the region. Tskhinval has blamed the explosion on Georgia.

The commander of the Russian peacekeeping force in South Ossetia, General Marat Kulahmetov, said a bomb went off in a Georgian vehicle detained during a routine patrol of the Georgian settlements.

Russian peacekeepers detained two vehicles with four civilians inside who didn't have any documents on them. One of the cars had Georgian plates.

“During the inspection of the detainees the peacekeeping patrol confiscated guns and hand grenades. The detainees and their vehicles were brought to the territory of the Russian peacekeeping mission. During further inspection of the vehicles and the detainees a bomb, equivalent to about 20 kilograms of TNT, went off,” said General Kulahmetov.

The South Ossetian leadership is blaming the explosion on Georgia. South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity said the attack was the work of Georgian special services, adding that Georgia is pursuing “a policy of state terrorism”.

“The latest terrorist acts in South Ossetia prove that Georgia has not abandoned its policy of state terrorism. We have no doubt that those terrorist acts have been carried out by Georgian special services. These actions undermine the efforts of the international community to stabilise the situation in the region and torpedo the Medvedev-Sarkozy peace plan.”

The bomb attack was the first incident of its kind since the end of the war in South Ossetia and the declaration of independence by the republic.

One of the main tasks of the peacekeeping mission is to locate and destroy all unexploded ammunition left over after the August war as there are reports that it has caused the deaths of local civilians.

Russians close checkpoint in Georgia

Meanwhile, Russian peacekeepers are closing their checkpoint on the Georgian side of the security zone on the Georgian-South Ossetian border.

On Saturday Russian peacekeepers started to dismantle parts of their checkpoint near the village of Karaleti. Moscow has promised to complete the withdrawal by October 10 as part of the ceasefire plan agreed by all sides of the conflict.

Russian forces on the Georgian side of the buffer zone are set to be replaced by European monitors.