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Hostages freed after tense standoff in Tbilisi

16 April 2021
The scene of the hostage-taking. Photo: Robin Fabbro/OC Media.

A man took seven hostages at a Bank of Georgia branch in Tbilisi today. He held hostages for two hours before being arrested in a ‘special operation’ by police.

According to a statement from the Interior Ministry, the hostage-taker is a man born in 1993. He is facing numerous charges including taking more than one hostage, as well as illegal possession of a firearm.

Vazha Siradze, head of Tbilisi’s Patrol Police Department told journalists that there are no deaths or injuries among the hostages.  ‘The hostages are free and no one has been injured. They have all been safely transferred to the police department’, he said. 

So far the police have not released any information about the hostage-taker’s demands or a possible motive. The bank where the hostage-taking took place is located in Tbilisi’s central Avlabari neighbourhood.

According to Rustavi 2 the police ‘special operation’ started at around 12:30, during which time the Avlabari Metro station was temporarily closed.  Police also evacuated residents from the surrounding area.

An eyewitness told Rustavi 2 earlier that the hostage-taker had taken at least four hostages. 

‘He took four [hostages], three employees and a guard’, the man said. ‘I was standing there outside’.

This has been the third major hostage situation in Georgia in recent months. 

Previous incidents

A man identified by the authorities as Badri Esebua fled the scene after taking 43 individuals hostage in the western Georgian city of Zugdidi in October 2020. Esebua, who reportedly received $500,000 in cash, still remains at large.

Following Esebua’s escape, Government critics reprimanded the authorities for their failure to arrest the perpetrator.

A month later, a man took 11 hostages at the office of microfinance company BMC in Tbilisi in protest of Georgia’s gambling legislation and the high-price of pharmaceutical drugs. He was later charged with ‘taking hostages using violence or threat of violence’, a crime punishable with 9–14 years in prison.

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