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Fearmongering: Georgia grenade was real and threat to Bush - FBI

Reuters | May 18, 2005
By Niko Mchedlishvili

First they tell us it's real, then they tell us it was a fake and now it's real again.  One thing is for sure:  they want to keep us afraid and under their control.

TBILISI - The FBI said on Wednesday a grenade thrown at President Bush during a visit to Georgia last week had been a threat to the American leader and had only failed to explode because of a malfunction. In a statement, a Federal Bureau of Investigation official at the U.S. embassy said the grenade, thrown while Bush made a keynote speech in Tbilisi's Freedom Square on May 10, had been live and landed within 30 meters (100 feet) of the president.

"We consider this act to be a threat against the health and welfare of both the President of the United States and the President of Georgia as well as the multitude of Georgian people that had turned out at this event," said the statement from C. Bryan Paarmann, the FBI's legal attache at the embassy.


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"This hand grenade appears to be a live device that simply failed to function due to a light strike on the blasting cap induced by a slow deployment of the spoon activation device," said the statement.

Paarmann said a reward was offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator.

The FBI's statement contradicted an account by Georgian police at the time who said the grenade was a dud, left at the spot to sow panic among the tens of thousands who turned out to greet Bush.

A White House spokesman also said then that Bush, who had visited the ex-Soviet republic to show support for its pro-Western government, had never been in danger.

There was no explanation for the discrepancy between the different versions.

Bush received a rapturous welcome from Georgians as he hailed their volatile ex-Soviet country as a "beacon of democracy."

The crowd that turned out to see Bush speak on Freedom Square was the largest since supporters of the now-President Mikhail Saakashvili massed there for the 2003 "Rose Revolution" that piloted him to power.

Paarmann said he had no evidence as to who tossed the grenade, which had been wrapped in a dark, colored handkerchief, into the crowd and he called for witnesses to come forward.

A reward of 20,000 laris -- roughly $9,000 -- was on offer for information "leading to the arrest and conviction of this individual."

Like the Caucasus as a whole, Georgia has been turbulent since the fall of communism and two regions have broken free from central government control after bloody post-Soviet wars.

Georgia borders Russia's troubled Chechnya and has gained world attention as part of the route of a major U.S.-backed pipeline between Caspian oilfields and world markets.

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