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Private Guns Seized After Georgian Riot : Soviets Recall 66,000 Weapons; Hundreds Arrested

From Reuters

Authorities in the republic of Georgia recalled 66,000 hunting rifles and other private guns and arrested hundreds of people today for breaking a curfew after nationalist riots in which 18 demonstrators were killed.

The government daily Izvestia said the leaders of illegal demonstrations in the center of Tbilisi last weekend were among those held and it reported that tension had shifted to the outskirts of the Georgian capital.

With flags flying at half-staff and many people dressed in black to mark a day of mourning, the paper said groups were threatening workers who tried to reach their jobs.

Full Investigation Pledged

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Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze, a native Georgian besieged with questions during meetings in Tbilisi with Georgian intellectuals and other residents, pledged to uncover the full circumstances of the deaths in Sunday’s clashes between troops and nationalist protesters.

“The people must be told everything. And we are convinced that the whole truth will be told directly,” Izvestia said.

Izvestia said 464 people were arrested and jailed for violating the 11 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew imposed after the riots when troops broke up a crowd shouting nationalist slogans in front of the Georgian government headquarters.

In Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady I. Gerasimov told a news conference the number of arrests was 200 and said that, as a temporary measure, the authorities began recalling the 66,000 or so private firearms registered in Georgia.

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Gerasimov said Shevardnadze, a former Georgian party leader who was sent to investigate the unrest, had talked with people on the city’s streets. Shevardnadze won praise for defusing earlier national unrest in 1978 and 1981.

Miscalculation Admitted

Georgian leader Dzhumber Patiashvili said on television that he had miscalculated by sending in troops, admitting that many who died were women and other innocent bystanders. They included a 70-year-old woman.

Sixteen people, many of them women, were officially reported to have died when troops broke up an all-night nationalist demonstration early on Sunday by 8,000 people outside a government building on the city’s main street.

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Gerasimov said a general criminal investigation had been opened after Sunday’s events, but it was not yet clear against whom it was directed.

Gerasimov said 12 of the victims were asphyxiated and one, the 70-year-old woman, died of shock. An investigation was being conducted into the other deaths.

Another two were known to have since died in hospitals and the figure could be higher, Gerasimov said.

A local journalist said more than 140 of the estimated 250 people hurt were still in hospitals.

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