TBILISI, Georgia – Georgia’s security chief said Wednesday that an inactive grenade was found near the site where President Bush made a speech in Tbilisi.
Gela Bezhuashvili, secretary of the National Security Council, said the Soviet-era grenade was found 100 feet from the tribune where Bush spoke on Tuesday.
U.S. Secret Service spokesman Jonathan Cherry said Tuesday 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 but “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, referring to Bush and Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.
Bezhuashvili said the grenade was found in “inactive mode.” He described it as an “engineering grenade” – one that is 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.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy, Khatiya Dzhindzhikhadze, said “this question will be resolved jointly by American and Georgian specialists.”
Security was very tight at Freedom Square, where Bush and Saakashvili gave speeches. Georgian police were deployed, and U.S. snipers were visible on the rooftops, scanning the crowd with binoculars.
U.S. 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.