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A counterterrorism operation in Tbilisi’s Isani District has come to an end, after an almost 21 hour siege. One member of the State Security Service (SSG) was killed and two more were wounded, along with two police officers. Three suspects were killed during the operation.
One person has been arrested in connection to the operation, the SSG has confirmed.
Gunfire and explosions could be heard intermittently throughout the night and during the next day in a building on Gabriel Salosi Street in Tbilisi’s Isani District.
The operation began in Tbilisi at around 20:00 on 21 November, with the first media reports coming in at around midnight. It ended by 17:00 the next day.
The SSG said they initially tried to negotiate the group’s surrender when the suspects opened fire with small arms and threw hand grenades, fatally wounding one officer.
The building caught on fire at around 16:00 after an explosion was heard. It is unclear what caused the fire, but firefighters were immediately called to the scene.
The SSG announced in a 19:00 briefing to journalists that the suspects had been under surveillance for several weeks. None of the members of the group were Georgian citizens, they said, but declined to give further details. They say they are conducting investigation within Georgia and abroad to fully identify any connections they have with outside groups.
Georgian news site Netgazeti cited local government representative Tamar Margoshvili of Pankisi Valley’s Duisi village as saying that a relative of the flat’s owner who had found tenants for the flat has been arrested. The State Security Service neither confirmed nor denied this report to OC Media.
The nearby Public School #97 has been temporarily closed, and a kindergarten evacuated.
Damages caused to local residents during the special operation will be fully compensated, the SSG reports.
As it happened
21 November 20:00 Special operation begins.
22 November 01:00 SSG reports suspects had opened fire at police with one officer reported seriously wounded.
05:00 SSG reports they are storming the building.
10:40 Rustavi 2 show black smoke billowing from the building, and the facade of the building damaged.
14:00 SSG again announce they are storming the building again.
15:35 Gunfire and explosions continue to be heard.
— OC Media (@OCMediaorg) November 22, 2017
16:54 Ambulances rush towards the building.
17:09 The SSG special forces member wounded during the shootout has died, doctors confirm to media.
17:15 Firefighters called to the scene as the building catches fire; large amounts of smoke seen billowing out.
17:30 The operation appears to be over, with SSG Special Forces seen withdrawing from Gabriel Salosi Street.
On.ge quotes a witness as saying that one other person was killed during the shootout while fleeing the building.
19:00 SSG holds press conference confirming that death toll, promising to release further details in the upcoming days.