TBILISI, Georgia — Under pressure from Moscow to halt rebel activity on its soil, Georgia said Saturday that it had detained scores of Chechens and killed at least five guerrillas linked to deadly blasts in Russia three years ago.
As part of what it calls a broad anti-terrorism operation, Georgia also extradited to Russia Yusuf Krymshamkhalov, who Moscow says belongs to a group of Chechens behind the 1999 explosions that killed more than 300 people, Russia's Itar-Tass news agency said.
Moscow has been trying to crush an insurgency in its southern republic of Chechnya since the early 1990s. Georgia is southwest of Chechnya.
On Saturday, Georgian authorities took in dozens of people, including Hizri Aldamov, the chief representative of the Chechen exile community in Georgia, to be fingerprinted. Also summoned were relatives of top Chechen rebel envoy Ahmed Zakayev, wanted by Moscow for alleged terror crimes.
"Interior Ministry and security officials have detained and checked up about 80 people overnight. Another 12 to 16 are currently being checked," said Paata Gomelauri, spokesman for Georgia's Interior Ministry.
Hours before the roundup in Tbilisi, Georgian forces killed five militants also suspected of links to the 1999 blasts.
"As a result of this operation, we destroyed a terrorist gang, which included prominent terrorists sought by Interpol," said Nika Laliashvili, spokesman for Georgia's State Security Ministry. He said the gang may have been responsible for kidnapping Peter Shaw, a Briton held captive in Georgia for five months.