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Blast kills seven Russian soldiers

Responsibility for the car explosion in the Georgian separatist region of South Ossetia is not clear.

October 04, 2008|From the Associated Press

TBILISI, GEORGIA — A car exploded Friday, killing seven soldiers outside Russia's military headquarters in South Ossetia, and Russian authorities said it was a terrorist bombing meant to wreck the tense cease-fire that ended the war with Georgia.

Georgia's Interior Ministry blamed Russia, accusing it of arranging the blast to provide a pretext for delaying next week's scheduled withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgian territory around South Ossetia and another Kremlin-backed separatist region, Abkhazia.

The explosion also injured eight Russian soldiers, the Russian military said. It was the deadliest single incident reported in South Ossetia since Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war over the breakaway region in August.

Under the Western-backed truce, European Union monitors have begun replacing Russian troops in the buffer zone ringing South Ossetia and the withdrawal is supposed to be completed by Oct. 11.

The Kremlin declined to comment on whether the carnage might affect the pullout timetable under its truce with this former Soviet republic.

A spokeswoman for the Russian-allied South Ossetian government, Irina Gagloyeva, said the car blew up after it was confiscated in an ethnic Georgian village.

South Ossetia's self-proclaimed president, Eduard Kokoity, called the explosion "a targeted terrorist act" and blamed it on the Georgian State Security Ministry, Russia's Itar-Tass news agency said.

Russia's Defense Ministry characterized the blast as a "carefully planned terrorist act designed to undermine" the cease-fire.

The Russian commander in South Ossetia, Col. Gen. Marat Kulakhmetov, said two cars were confiscated by his troops in an ethnic Georgian village after a search turned up guns and grenades. The cars were moved to the military headquarters in Tskhinvali, South Ossetia's capital, and one of them -- with Georgian license plates -- exploded during a further search, he said.

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