Grenade Near Bush Was 'Inactive'

By Mara D. Bellaby
Associated Press
Thursday, May 12, 2005

TBILISI, Georgia, May 11 -- A grenade found near the platform where President Bush addressed a large crowd here Tuesday was incapable of exploding and had not been thrown, as earlier reported, Georgia's security chief said Wednesday.

Gela Bezhuashvili, secretary of the National Security Council, said the Soviet-era grenade was found in "inactive mode" about 100 feet from the platform.

Bush was not aware of the grenade report until Secret Service agents told him about it aboard his jet as it was returning to Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington, press secretary Scott McClellan said, adding that the White House never believed the president's life was in danger.

"The Secret Service and FBI are continuing to look into it," McClellan said Wednesday. "There have been different reports about what happened and what exactly it was."

A 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 fell to the ground.

Bezhuashvili, however, said the grenade 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 Georgia's Mikheil Saakashvili.

[On Wednesday, Cherry told Washington Post staff writer John Mintz that there was "an ongoing investigation, and we will have no additional comment" on the grenade.]

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Khatiya Dzhindzhikhadze, said questions about the grenade would "be resolved jointly by American and Georgian specialists."

Bezhuashvili described it as an "engineering grenade" -- one used for demolition or to simulate the effect of an artillery shell. The blast of such a grenade can be fatal at close range, but unlike offensive grenades, they are not designed to spread shrapnel.

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 and their Georgian counterparts manned the security gates, making even Georgian performers -- some of whom were decked out with fake ammunition as part of their costumes -- remove every piece of metal before passing through the detectors.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company