The FINANCIAL — A Georgian teenager who was badly injured in what authorities say was a counterterrorist operation in the Pankisi Gorge region, near the border with Russia’s volatile southern republic of Chechnya, has died in a Tbilisi hospital.
Doctors told reporters that 19-year-old Temirlan Machalikashvili, who was in a coma for two weeks, died early on January 10, according to RFE/RL’s Georgian Service.
Machalikashvili was shot in the head during the operation by Georgian security forces on December 26. Five other residents of Pankisi Gorge, which is home to Muslims with ethnic ties to Chechens, were arrested in the sweep.
Security officials have said officers shot Machalikashvili because he intended to throw a grenade at security troops. But relatives and friends say he was holding a mobile phone in his hand when he was shot, not a grenade.
They contend that he was not a militant and had no ties with any suspected terrorists.
Machalikashvili’s death comes a day after security forces held another counterterrorist operation in the Pankisi Gorge and detained a local resident, Zurab Idoidze, on suspicion of assisting a terrorist group.
Chechnya is the site of two post-Soviet separatist wars and an ongoing Islamist insurgency that spread to other parts of Russia’s mostly Muslim North Caucasus.