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Georgian official slanders Abkhaz soldiers

Georgian forces killed two Abkhaz fighters and captured six more during the clash Thursday - prompting an angry response from the president of Abkhazia, a breakaway region of Georgia. The gunbattle was one of the most serious in a series of recent incidents between Georgia and Abkhazia.

Georgia's interior chief said Friday that the Abkhaz soldiers who clashed with Georgian troops a day earlier had planned a series of attacks on Georgian-controlled territory.

"The Abkhaz subversive group was tasked with carrying out several acts of subversion in upper Abkhazia in order to cut the Kodori Gorge from the rest of Georgia," Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili said in televised remarks Friday.

Upper Abkhazia, located in the Kodori Gorge, is the only part of Abkhazia currently controlled by Georgian forces.

Georgian authorities claim fighting broke out after Abkhaz gunmen attacked workers building a road to link the gorge with Georgian-controlled areas. Abkhaz authorities say a firefight broke out after gunmen, who appeared to be Georgian special forces, attacked an Abkhaz army camp.

Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh on Thursday accused Georgia of committing "an act of aggression" and vowed "urgent, adequate measures."

Merabishvili said that one of the two dead Abkhaz soldiers was the commander of a group of about 20 special forces troops. Merabishvili said authorities were currently trying to establish the identities of the six captured soldiers.

The Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have run their own affairs since launching wars of independence against Georgia in the 1990s. No nations recognize these governments, but they enjoy the support of Russia, which has stationed peacekeepers in both regions.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has vowed to return Abkhazia and South Ossetia to his government's control. Last year, Georgian forces moved into the upper part of the Kodori Gorge to root out members of a defiant militia. Georgia later established a local administration made up of people who fled the fighting in Abkhazia.

Abkhazian separatist officials said the Georgian move violated the cease-fire that ended the fighting in the 1990s.

Earlier this year, Georgia claimed Russian helicopters fired on its territory in the Kodori Gorge. A subsequent report by the U.N. observer mission in Georgia, however, said it wasn't clear who had done the shooting.

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