MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Thursday Islamist rebels were being trained in neighboring Georgia to launch attacks in Chechnya and nearby regions, a state-run news agency reported.
Russian officials have said that foreign training and funding has contributed to a surge in violence by Islamist insurgents in recent months in its volatile north Caucasus regions, including Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.
“At military bases in Georgia, terrorist groups are trained by foreign instructors to carry out attacks in Russia,” Deputy Interior Minister Arkady Yedelev told police officials in the Caucasus town of Vladikavkaz, RIA news agency reported.
He did not directly accuse the Georgian government of complicity and did not say what nationality the instructors were. Russia has in the past accused Arab fighters of providing training to Chechen rebels, though not specifically in Georgia.
Georgia and Russia have been at loggerheads since a five-day war last August in which Moscow rebuffed a Georgian attempt to retake the breakaway region of South Ossetia.
Yedelev said the training had contributed to a 19 percent increase in “terrorist attacks” in Russia’s Caucasus regions in 2009 compared to the previous year.
During the second separatist war with Chechnya in the 1990s, Moscow said Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge on the border with Chechnya served as a shelter for hiding guerrillas and militants.
Today, Tbilisi officials say some Chechen refugees still live there, but fighters and militants no longer take shelter in Georgia.
The head of the FSB, successor to the KGB, accused Georgia in October of collaborating with al Qaeda and aiding Islamist militants. A senior official in Tbilisi dismissed those accusations as “absurd.”
Writing by Conor Humphries; Editing by Ralph Boulton