By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
This does not mean operatives "linked" to Al Qaeda have never passed through. According to Time magazine, a top Al Qaeda militant named Saif al Islam el Masry was transferred from here to the United States last year. But other reports cite different names and draw different, sometimes contradictory connections. Laliashvili says he has no information about el Masrynever even heard of himand an FBI official told the Voice there are no unclassified records of anyone from Georgia being turned over. Meanwhile, Colin Powell has made reference to two other Al Qaeda-linked operativesAbu 'Atiya and Abu Hafswho were in the gorge but are currently at large. If these militants formed a single cell, no one here seems to know. "We don't have any Al Qaeda specialists at the ministry," said Laliashvili.
Perhaps not knowing is the greatest danger. Georgian officials insist that whoever was connected with Al Qaeda in Pankisi left in August, when fighters in the gorge were contacted, both openly and through back channels, and told to leave. Still, the U.S. government maintains that the Al Qaeda threat in Georgia is real. On September 11, a satellite phone call was placed from Afghanistan to an area near Duisi, Laliashvili said. Perhaps that is why four Pentagon Arab-language specialists set up a listening station on the GTEP base in Krtsanisi last year. As U.S. soldiers trained Georgian commandos in marksmanship, tactical maneuvering, and American military doctrine, "they quietly listened, on a range of frequencies, 24 hours a day, for a period of several months," an inside source told the Voice. "But they found nothing, so they went home."
"Part One: Turkish Fishermen Threaten a Blockade"
"Part Two: The Blood of Massacred Turkish Kurds Holds a Fearful Lesson for Those Who Would Flee Iraq"
"Part Three: Pipeline Project Splits Georgian Village Into Winners and Losers"
Research assistance: Mosi Secret