Extremists Seize 1,400 Weapons; Toll of Injured Passes 400 With AM-Soviet-Strikes Bjt
Jul. 21, 1989
TBILISI, U.S.S.R. (AP) _ Mobs seized 1,400 weapons in more than 40 ''bandit attacks'' on police and government posts in western Soviet Georgia, which is nearly paralyzed by ethnic violence, Soviet media reported Friday.
Zarya Vostoka, a Georgian newspaper, reported 17 people killed and 406 injured in six days of conflict between Georgians and Abkhazians in the Black Sea resort area.
Moscow radio said food stores were open in Sukhumi, capital of the Abkhazia region, and nearby towns, but transportation difficulties made supplies of food and other goods scarce.
''Most enterprises and industries are not working,'' it said. ''Both railway and city transport are paralyzed and heaps of garbage in hot weather could result in an epidemic.''
The newspaper said cargo trucks were getting through only when escorted by police.
On Tuesday, authorities declared the Sukhumi area off-limits to the millions of tourists who vacation there each year and imposed emergency regulations, including an 11 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew. Police and soldiers have seized more than 2,700 firearms since the emergency was declared.
Police confiscated four anti-tank and two anti-personnel mines at one village in Abkhazia, an ethnically mixed enclave in Georgia, Zarya Vostoka said in the Friday edition distributed in Tbilisi, capital of the southern republic.
Vremya, the nightly television news program, said, ''In the last 24 hours, groups of hooligans in western Georgia have seized almost 1,400 hunting and combat weapons'' in more than 40 raids.
Abkhazia, 800 miles south of Moscow, remained closed to Western reporters.
Tass, the official news agency, reported that 49 people were arrested for curfew violations Thursday night and police seized more than 200 weapons. The government newspaper Izvestia said the confiscated weapons included two submachine guns and a grenade.
Special flights and ships continued evacuating the thousands of tourists stranded in Sukhumi, Izvestia said.
It said 4,300 people were evacuated on 46 special flights and 15,000 were taken from Sukhumi harbor by cruise ships.
Zarya Vostoka said 31 policemen and internal security troopers were among the injured.
Some media reports have put the death toll at 18, but Zarya Vostoka quoted the Georgia Interior Ministry as saying 17 had died.
Moscow radio said 96 people remained hospitalized, nine in ''grave condition.'' The latest count of injuries was 67 higher than the one given Thursday.
The radio said the trouble was caused by Abkhazian demands for secession from Georgia.
Abkhazians are a minority in their homeland, a so-called autonomous republic inside the Republic of Georgia. Both ethnic groups in the enclave claim discrimination by the other.
Tass reported: ''In Kapsky district, extremists attacked an Interior Ministry building and stole 30 confiscated hunting guns. In the town of Samtredia, armed guards were attacked in a number of factories. Military firearms, including automatic weapons, fell into the hands of extremists.''
On Friday night, about 5,000 Georgians held a rally in downtown Tbilisi. Activists said the riots were provoked to undermine the Georgian independence movement.
One speaker, Sviad Gamsakhurdia, called for a general strike starting Monday to demand protection for Georgian residents of Abkhazia. He and others said that Interior Ministry troops were protecting only Abkhazians.
Gamsakhurdia also said some Abkhazia leaders helped arm Abkhazian rioters, and he demanded they be removed.
Abkhazians have blamed Georgians for starting the violence.
Members of the Georgian Popular Front said the movement sent a letter to President Mikhail S. Gorbachev last Saturday demanding protection for Georgians in Abkhazia and threatening to ''take their defense into our own hands'' if nothing was done.
At least 132 people have died in ethnic unrest during the past month in the southern Soviet republics of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tadzhikistan.