Pankisi Elders Demand Return of Young Runaway Militants in Syria
Author: Zaza Jgharkava
Investigations are ongoing into the apparent illegal border crossing of a Pankisi teenager who has reportedly been fighting for Islamic militants in Syria.
16-year-old Muslim Kushtanashvili, and his friend 18-year-old Ramzan Baghakashvili presented their ID cards to the Tbilisi International Airport border guards without question. Referring to Kushtanashvili, the Interior Minister stated: “This kid secretly sneaked through the border.”
In the village Duisi, in Pankisi, a meeting of the council of elders was held to discuss the disappearance of the teenagers. The population of Pankisi demanded that the government return the two young people. “The entire population of the gorge calls on the security services, intelligence, Ministry of Interior to return the two young people,” Ramaz Margoshvili, representative of the village Duisi said to the news agency Netgazeti. According to Margoshvili, the population of the gorge believe that the government should make border control stricter so that no more young people leave the gorge for Syria. The elders claim that 16-year-old Kushtanashvili and 18-year-old Baghakashvili crossed the Georgian border on April 2. Their family members and close friends presume that the young people left for Syria to fight. The Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri responded to the issue of juveniles going from Pankisi Gorge to Syria. “We contacted special agencies of Turkey and asked them to assist us in returning the kids. Of course, we are working on the issue. I would like to point out that even though this time the border guards did not check the age of this kid, we have had frequent cases of returning people, not only juveniles, to their homes and families,” the Interior Minister said.