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7th Detained for Alleged Links with IS Terrorist Chatayev

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, January 24
(TBILISI)--Georgia’s State Security Service has announced that they have detained Anatoli Berdzenishvili for alleged links with the Islamic State terrorist Ahmed Chatayev, who blew himself up during Tbilisi counter-terrorism raid on November 22, 2017.

The security body claims that Berdzenishvili assisted Chatayev and his group members to cross the Turkey- Georgia passport-free zone and arrive to Georgia’s capital Tbilisi with the aim to attack Georgian and Turkish diplomats.

Berdzenishvili’s lawyer says that the detainee dismisses any links with Chatayev, but says he knew Temirlan Machalikashvili, a 19-year-old boy who was shot in Pankisi raid in Georgia’s Muslim-populated Gorge on December 26, 2017 by a special unit serviceman.

Machalikashvili, who died from the severe head injury two weeks after the shooting, was also accused of supporting Chatayev.

If Berdzenishvili is found guilty for supporting terrorist activities, he will be sent to prison for 17-20 years or will be given a life-time sentence.

Chatayev was listed as a terrorist by the United States for planning attacks against US and Turkish facilities in 2015.

Born in Vedeno - the same town as a notorious Chechen militant Shamil Basayev - Chatayev was a battle hardened veteran of the 1999-2001 Second Chechen War, where he lost an arm fighting the Russian troops. He later fled to Austria and is believed to have helped recruit and finance volunteers to join Doku Umarov, Basayev’s successor, and help carve out an Islamic state in the North Caucasus.

Chatayev was later arrested on several occasions, including in Sweden and Ukraine, for weapons possession and suspected links to terrorist groups.

Following his arrest in Ukraine, he was deported to Georgia where he took up refuge in the same home village where Tarkhan Batirashvili grew up. Batirashvili, the Chechen native of Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge, gained international attention as ISIS’ main field commander using his nom de guerre, Abu Omar al-Shishani.

While in Pankisi, Chatayev was picked up by Georgia’s security services during a 2012 anti-terror operation near Georgia’s border with the North Caucasus region Dagestan. Acting as a go-between for the Georgian government and the Chechen militants holed up in a mountain compound, Chatayev later switched sides and joined the armed terror group.

He lost his leg in the ensuing raid, but was later released after prosecutors determined there was little evidence to try him for terrorist activities.

By 2015, several local media outlets identified Chatayev as having joined ISIS in Syria.

In summer 2016, Turkish law enforcers named Chatayev as a mastermind of a terrorist act in the Ataturk Airport claiming 48 lives and leaving more than 200 injured.

On November 22, 2017 Georgia’s State Security Service carried out a large-scale raid in the outskirts of Tbilisi. Two suspects were killed and the third suspect, Chatayev, blew himself up.

Only one suspect with the Russian citizenship was detained.

Following the raid the Security Service carried out the counter-terrorism operation in Pankisi, detained four and wounded Machalikashvili for alleged links with terrorists.

Prior to Berdzenishvili, a Georgian citizen Zurab Idoidze was detained with the same charge.