'Inactive' grenade found at Bush speech site in Georgia

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The Independent Online

An inactive grenade had been found near the site where George Bush made a speech in Tbilisi, Georgia's security chief said today.

An inactive grenade had been found near the site where George Bush made a speech in Tbilisi, Georgia's security chief said today.

Gela Bezhuashvili, secretary of the National Security Council, said the Soviet-era grenade was found 100 feet from where the US president spoke yesterday.

A US Secret Service spokesman, Jonathan Cherry, said that his agency had been informed that a device, possibly a hand grenade, had been thrown near the stage during Bush's speech, hit someone in the crowd and fallen to the ground. Bezhuashvili said, however, that it was not thrown, it was "found."

"The goal is clear - to frighten or to scare people and to attract the attention of the mass media," he said. "The goal has been reached and that is why I'm talking to you now."

"In any case there was no danger whatsoever for the presidents," he said.

Bezhuashvili said the grenade was found in "inactive mode." He described it as an engineering grenade - used for demolition or to simulate the effect of an artillery shell. Such grenades' blast-effect can be fatal at close range, but unlike offensive grenades, they are not designed to spread shrapnel.

"I am not an expert but it was not possible to detonate it there," Bezhuashvili said.

Security was very tight at Freedom Square, where Bush and Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili gave speeches. Georgian police were deployed, and US snipers were visible on the rooftops, scanning the crowd with binoculars. US agents, together with their Georgian counterparts, manned the security gates, making even Georgian performers - who in some cases were decked out with fake ammunition as part of their costumes - remove every piece of metal before passing through the detectors.

Many in the crowd were carrying plastic soda bottles, which they used to squirt water on each other to stave off the heat after hours of standing without shelter under the bright sun. There were many young people horsing around during the speeches - especially when the translation was muffled and the speech unintelligible - and some threw plastic bottles at one another for entertainment.

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