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Missing Georgian soldier shot dead: Afghan official

Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili leaves a voting booth at a polling station during the parliamentary election in Tbilisi October 1, 2012. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan: A Georgian soldier who went missing in Afghanistan earlier this month was found dead in an abandoned mud house with multiple bullets to his body, local officials said Sunday.

Police searching for Sergeant Giorgi Kikadze found his body in a village compound in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province, district governor Nemat Khan told AFP.

"He was shot by bullets and was found in an empty house," Khan said. "We showed the body to the Georgian officials from ISAF. They identified it."

Georgian defence minister Irakli Alasania and ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) officials confirmed the discovery on Saturday, but gave no further details.

Kikadze went missing on December 19 in Helmand, a southern province at the heart of the Taliban insurgency.

He is believed to be the first soldier from the NATO-led international force to have gone missing since Bowe Bergdahl, from the United States, was taken on June 30, 2009 in the southeastern province of Paktika.

Talks between the US and Taliban insurgents over a possible prisoner exchange involving Bergdahl failed earlier this year.

Kikadze's death took to 19 the number of Georgian troops killed in Afghanistan over the past three years.

Georgia has 1,570 troops serving in the country, making the small Caucasus country of 4.5 million the largest non-NATO contributor to ISAF.

President Mikheil Saakashvili is due to visit Georgian troops serving in Afghanistan's Helmand province for New Year celebrations on Monday.

There are presently around 100,000 US-led NATO troops fighting a decade-long Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan.

Despite the stubborn insurgency, war-weary international forces are seeking to hand control of security to Afghan forces by withdrawing their combat troops by the end of 2014.

Georgia is willing to continue deploying troops to assist local security forces after the NATO-led combat mission formally ends.

 

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