August 12, 2008 / 7:47 AM / in 10 years

Blasts rock Georgian town Gori as several reported dead

GORI, Georgia (Reuters) - Explosions in the Georgian town of Gori on Tuesday killed at least five civilians, including a journalist, and injured several others.

A Reuters photographer said he saw five bodies and four wounded people in the street after the blasts.

Broadcaster RTL later said Dutch cameraman Stan Storimans had been killed and a Dutch correspondent wounded during a Russian attack on Gori.

In Moscow, Colonel-General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy head of the General Staff, denied Russian forces had attacked the town.

A study of television footage from the scene showed that the explosions were probably caused by mortar fire and not by bombs dropped from aircraft, as witnesses initially thought.

A Reuters reporter said the explosions came without warning as they were driving through virtually deserted streets. All shops were shuttered and only small clutches of residents were occasionally seen.

The street was near hillside areas where Russian aircraft had earlier attacked Georgian artillery positions above the town, about 60 km (35 miles) west of the capital Tbilisi, he added.

A convoy of civilian cars was seen speeding away from Gori, some of their occupants shouting “They’re bombing, they’re bombing!”

Two Georgian trucks had collided on a road near Gori, suggesting confusion as people tried to leave the town.

The reporter said a string of explosions had peppered a hillside flanking Gori, where Georgian artillery had fired on Russian positions on Monday.

Georgian soldiers abandoned the town in some disarray on Monday.

Two Reuters reporters in the town saw four explosions on the outskirts of Gori earlier on Tuesday, though it was unclear whether these resulted from an air bombardment or artillery.

Reporters saw no soldiers on the road between Tbilisi and Gori, birthplace of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. A few abandoned Georgian army vehicles and a burnt-out tank lay by the roadside on the southern approach to the town.

Reporting by Matt Robinson, writing by Ron Popeski, editing by Tim Pearce

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