UN Military Observer Killed in Georgia

TBILISI (Reuters)–A member of the United Nations’ military observer team in Georgia was shot dead outside her home in the capital Tbilisi late on Tuesday–the general prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday.

It gave the victim’s name as Maria-Magdalena Wewiorska–a 31-year-old Pole who began working for the head of the UN mission in Tbilisi three weeks ago. Earlier the Interior Ministry had given her surname as Kawoiska.

A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said a Makarov pistol and five bullets were found near the scene of her death.

He said an investigative team was considering several possible motives for the murder.

The UN mission chief in Tbilisi–Liviu Bota–on Wednesday met Georgia’s Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarishvili to discuss the shooting.

No details of their talks were available but the Foreign Ministry said in a statement it hoped the incident would not affect the activities of the United Nations and other international organizations in Georgia.

Ninety unarmed UN military observers are based in Georgia–where they are helping a 1,500-strong Russian contingent keep the peace between the former Soviet republic and its breakaway region of Abkhazia.

The UN mission has complained in the past about the use of violence against its personnel and property in Georgia. In February four UN workers were taken hostage by gunmen’seeking a ransom but were later freed unharmed.

Last Sunday five Russian soldiers carrying out peacekeeping duties were killed by a remote-controlled mine in the buffer zone dividing Abkhazia and Georgia proper.

Abkhazia has enjoyed de facto independence since a 1992-93 war in which up to 10,000 people were killed. About 150,000 ethnic Georgians were forced to flee the lush Black Sea region.

Violence flared again in May when Abkhaz fighters systematically torched the homes of Georgian civilians in the buffer zone–forcing another 30,000 to flee.

On Wednesday six villagers were killed and several more wounded in a bomb blast in the buffer zone. A spokesman for Abkhazia’s separatist government pinned the blame on irregular Georgian fighters.

Tbilisi has offered the separatists wide autonomy but rules out granting full independence.

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze–a former Soviet foreign minister–has called for UN military intervention in Abkhazia.

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