Update: South Ossetia says Georgian terrorist group eliminated

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Georgia's Interior Ministry categorically denied Tuesday claims by authorities in the breakaway region of South Ossetia that they have eliminated a Georgian terrorist group attempting to infiltrate its territory.
MOSCOW, October 31 (RIA Novosti) - Georgia's Interior Ministry categorically denied Tuesday claims by authorities in the breakaway region of South Ossetia that they have eliminated a Georgian terrorist group attempting to infiltrate its territory.

The four-man group was spotted by police in a remote region of South Ossetia bordering Georgia, a spokesperson for the South Ossetian government said. According to Irina Gagloyeva, the suspected terrorists, who were heavily armed and carrying explosives, opened fire on police during an identification check and were killed in the ensuing firefight.

"The statement by the South Ossetian side on the incident in the Dzhava district bears no relation to reality," an official at the Georgian Interior Ministry said, adding that the firefight could have been part of an internal conflict in South Ossetia.

The commander of a Georgian peacekeeping battalion in the conflict zone said Georgia has no information about the elimination of an alleged terrorist group in South Ossetia.

"No one can say whether they were Georgians or not," Paata Bedianashvili said. "I can neither confirm nor deny the rumors."

He said the incident occurred in an area that is not in the conflict zone, and peacekeepers are not authorized to investigate incidents outside the zone.

The troubled region of South Ossetia, whose declaration of independence from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union has not been internationally recognized, has been at the center of tensions between Russia and Georgia since a bloody conflict in the 1990s ended with a ceasefire and the deployment of peacekeeping troops, including Russian forces.

The pro-Western government of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has repeatedly called for the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from the area, and has vowed to reincorporate the region into Georgia proper.

South Ossetia and Russia earlier expressed concern over Georgia's recent militarization and apparent drive to resolve territorial disputes by force.

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