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USA TODAY May 19, 2005

Live grenade posed threat to Bush

By Oren Dorell, USA TODAY

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 Tbilisi's Freedom Square. Saakashvili had earlier estimated the crowd at 150,000. The podium Bush spoke from was shielded by thick protective glass on two sides but not in front.

Paarmann said U.S. and Georgian authorities analyzed the grenade and are continuing their investigation. The grenade, which was wrapped in a tartan-colored handkerchief, failed because the impact on its blasting cap was too light to set it off, Paarmann said.

John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a defense policy group in Alexandria, Va., explained that the cloth around the grenade apparently constricted its handle and prevented it from exploding.

Bruce Jackson, an American working with the White House advance team during Bush's visit, said it became clear about 10 a.m. that morning that crowds were bypassing metal detectors set up at entrances to Freedom Square. Jackson is president of the Project on Transitional Democracies, a group working to expand democratic institutions abroad.

National security adviser Stephen Hadley told Jackson and others minutes before the 1:30 p.m. speech that plans for Bush to shake hands with the crowd had been scrapped, Jackson said. National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones would not confirm Jackson's account, but Bush did not shake hands with the crowd after his speech.

Asked about crowds overrunning security checkpoints, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Wednesday the Secret Service "takes any number of security precautions" when Bush speaks.


Copyright 2005, USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.