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Military observers attacked in Georgian-Ossetian conflict area

RIA Novosti

08/05/2007 11:31 MOSCOW, May 8 (RIA Novosti) - A group of military observers and OSCE Mission officials came under attack in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict area, a spokesman for the joint peacekeeping forces said Tuesday.

The group of Russian, North Ossetian, Georgian observers and representatives of the OSCE Mission were monitoring the situation in the conflict zone Monday. The observers discovered an anti-aircraft machine gun, a Strela-2M MANPAD and three armed people, a press release reads.

"[The three] introduced themselves as police officers from the Znauri district in South Ossetia, but refused to produce documentation or explain where they got the weapons," the spokesman said. "The offenders also opened fire aiming over the officers' heads, which made them retreat to a safe position."

Later on a UAZ car took the anti-aircraft equipment in an unknown direction.

The discovery of the air defense units in the conflict area is a destabilizing factor, undermining mutual confidence, and it violates existing agreements, the peacekeepers said. The incident has already been reported to co-chairmen of the Joint Control Commission.

South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia following a bloody conflict that left hundreds dead in 1991-1992, peacekeepers have been stationed in the region ever since. They comprise Russian, Georgian and South Ossetian troops.

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