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ICRC suspends operations after delegates abducted in Georgia

Pankisi gorge: the ICRC has halted operations since the kidnapping Keystone

The Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross has suspended its activities along the Georgian border with Chechnya, following the abduction of two of its delegates and their Georgian driver.

This content was published on August 7, 2000 - 16:11

An ICRC spokeswoman said all activities in the Pankisi Gorge area, where thousands of Chechen refugees are located, had been halted.

The Georgian president, Eduard Shevardnadze, said the delegates had ignored warnings, but added that the authorities would do everything possible to ensure their release. He said he hoped the two women delegates would soon be found.

The two women - one French, one Italian - have not been seen since Friday, but their car was found near the Chechen border on Saturday. They were travelling without bodyguards.

The Georgian authorities have described their disappearance as a kidnapping, and say they may have been smuggled into Chechnya. But the ICRC is not yet describing the incident as an abduction.

Hostage-taking and kidnapping are frequent in Georgian areas not under government control. Russian officials have also accused Chechen rebels of setting up camps in the Pankisi Gorge region.

swissinfo with agencies

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