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Four killed, one wounded in shelling in Georgia conflict zone


SUKHUMI, March 8 (RIA Novosti, Ruslan Tarba) - Four civilians have been killed following the shelling of two automobiles in Georgia's breakaway republic of Abkhazia during an ambush, the local interior minister said Wednesday.

Otar Khetsiya said all four passengers of one of the cars were killed, including a seven-year-old girl. One passenger of the mini-van traveling behind was wounded. All the victims were local residents.

"Several cases of submachine-guns and one machinegun have been found at the site," Khetsiya said.

Commenting on the incident, which occurred Wednesday morning in the Galsky district of Abkhazia, Valery Dzhaparidze, the commander of the Georgian peacekeepers in the conflict zone, said that forces opposing peace in the area stood behind the attack.

"I think such incidents are in the interests of those forces who do not want peace in the region," Dzhaparidze said, adding that murders were common in the area, but that every time "the Abkhazian side puts the blame on the Georgians."

Abkhazia proclaimed independence from Georgia after bloody conflicts in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union, but has failed to gain international recognition.

In a latest display of tensions between Georgia and its breakaway republic, Abkhazian police arrested three Georgian journalists on March 2 saying they were members of a Georgian religious non-governmental organization and did not have permission to cross the border.

Tbilisi has repeatedly accused Moscow of siding with separatists in the breakaway province, which has soured relations between the two countries.

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