Pankisi Warlord Dies in Explosion

Pankisi warlord Vepkhia Margoshvili died today as a result of explosion in his house, Georgian Rustavi 2 TV reported. Margoshvili allegedly was a force behind the high-profile kidnappings in Georgia.

Local police officials deny charges in setting up the explosion, allegedly by remotely controlled explosive device. “Margoshvili exploded on his own mine,” police officials told Rustavi 2.

Margoshvili’s name became known in Summer 2000, when two Red Cross (ICRC) officers were kidnapped in Georgia. Margoshvili, indicted for two criminal cases, agreed to release hostages. In return, the charges against him were dropped.

Afterwards in 2001,  Margoshvili, resident of Pankisi gorge, was allegedly the force behid kidnappings of the Spanish businessmen as well as the Georgian MP. Kidnappings were orchestrated from Georgia’s Pankisi gorge – shelter of some 7000 Chechen refugees as well as the home for Kist minority (Georgians of Chechen descen) of whom Margoshvili himself was a member.

Tensions in Pankisi almost escalated into community violence in July 2001 as Georgian and Kist villages engaged in reciprocal kidnappings. Pankisi gorge was highly politically charged area as Russian officials accused Georgia in harboring Chechen terrorists alongside with the refugees. Kidnapping cases made clear total incapacity of the Georgian law enforcers to control the area.

It was also alleged, that Margoshvili was one of the key figures in drug trafficking route which flows through the gorge.

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