Moscow – Russia accused Georgia on Saturday of firing mortars and grenades into South Ossetia and warned that it would defend the separatist territory with “all available forces and means” as tensions mounted ahead of the anniversary of last year’s war.
Georgia condemned Russia’s assertion as “groundless and misleading,” saying it was aimed at “further destabilizing the situation and causing the unfolding of a dangerous scenario of events.”
Calling for restraint on all sides, the European Union’s monitoring mission in the region said it had seen “no evidence to confirm that any firing has taken place toward Tskhinvali or its surroundings,” referring to the South Ossetian capital.
The exchange of tough words came less than a week before the anniversary of the start of last year’s war between Russia and Georgia.
In a statement, the E.U. monitoring mission expressed “serious concern about the escalation of accusations” at “this particularly sensitive time.”
Toll in clash with Islamists raised
Maiduguri, Nigeria – A Nigerian military official said Saturday that about 700 people were killed in the northern city of Maiduguri during recent fighting between police and a radical Islamist sect. The toll was previously thought to be around 300.
Col. Ben Ahanotu told the Associated Press on Saturday that mass burials have begun because bodies were decomposing in the heat. The Islamist compound destroyed this week by government troops is one of the burial sites, he said.
“They’ve got almost 700 bodies,” Ahanotu, who is in charge of security in Maiduguri, said of officials gathering bodies.
“Right there, they had to do a mass burial there because there are a lot of bodies inside,” he said, pointing to what used to be the Boko Haram sect leader’s compound. It is now smoldering rubble with digging equipment around it.
The fighting affected other northern cities, too. The total death toll is unknown.
Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, was largely quiet Saturday. Its streets had been cleared of bodies and the blood spilled during five days of fierce fighting. Banks and markets have reopened.