U.S. aide is shot to death in Georgia

August 10, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

MOSCOW -- A U.S. diplomat was shot to death in the former Soviet republic of Georgia in a murky incident that Georgian authorities attribute to banditry or possibly just a stray bullet, officials said yesterday.

In Washington, U.S. officials said privately that the slain man, Fred Woodruff, 45, of Herndon, Va., was an agent with the Central Intelligence Agency.

Officials said Mr. Woodruff was on a temporary assignment in Georgia. They said he had been due to leave Georgia on Aug. 20, but they declined to provide specifics about his mission there.

Mr. Woodruff was riding about 15 miles northwest of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, in a vehicle with Georgian President Eduard A. Shevardnadze's chief of security on Sunday evening when he was hit in the forehead by a bullet, according to the Georgian Embassy in Moscow.

"Our friend, a wonderful representative of the American people, has become a tragic victim of a senseless incident," said Mr. Shevardnadze, the former Soviet foreign minister.

The Georgian prosecutor's office, which said it had launched an investigation, appeared to be ruling out the possibility of anti-U.S. terrorism, saying the shooting appeared to be "purely criminal."

Several possible versions of the killing were circulating, including the hypothesis that the assailant, seeing the Georgian security chief, thought he might be traveling with Mr. Shevardnadze, Russian Television reported. But it also suggested that the shooting was a case of attempted robbery.

U.S. officials said it was unclear whether the bullet that hit Mr. Woodruff was aimed at him.

Georgia has been racked by civil war, political chaos and economic collapse for almost two years, capped most recently by the resignation of the entire Cabinet last week.

Mr. Shevardnadze, in a morning radio address, appeared to be preparing to use the killing as a further excuse to introduce a general state of emergency. "Order must be restored," he said.

Mr. Woodruff was described by State Department spokesman Michael D. McCurry as "a regional affairs officer," but Mr. McCurry was unable to define a "regional affairs" officer's role. He was married and had five children.

U.S. officials said privately that arrangements for the return of his body were being made by "the director of central intelligence."

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