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Gannett News Service May 19, 2005

Live grenade posed threat to Bush

WASHINGTON -- A grenade tossed into the crowd during President Bush's speech in Tbilisi, Georgia, last week was live and was a threat to the president, but "simply failed to function," the FBI said Wednesday.

The grenade landed within 100 feet of the podium, endangering Bush, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and members of the crowd, FBI agent Bryan Paarmann said in a statement. The grenade did not detonate, and Bush and his aides did not learn of its existence from Georgian officials until two hours after they'd left the country.

Bush capped a five-day visit to Latvia, the Netherlands and Russia with a stop May 10 in Georgia, a small country on Russia's southern border. Bush extolled Georgia's move toward democracy in a speech in Freedom Square, with a crowd estimated at 150,000. The podium Bush spoke from was shielded by thick protective glass on two sides but not in front.

Paarmann said authorities analyzed the grenade and are continuing their investigation. The grenade, which was wrapped in a handkerchief, didn't go off because the impact on its blasting cap was too light to set it off, he said.

John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a defense policy group in Alexandria, Va., said the cloth around the grenade apparently prevented it from exploding.


Copyright 2005, Gannett News Service