TBILISI, Georgia – A man arrested after a fatal shootout with police has admitted to throwing a grenade at a rally in May where President Bush was making a speech, a Georgian official said Thursday.
The suspect, Vladimir Arutyunian (search), made the admission in the hospital, where he is being treated for wounds suffered during a shootout in a village on the outskirts of the capital, Tbilisi, when police tried to arrest him late Wednesday, Deputy Health Minister Irakly Giorgobiani (search) said on Rustavi-2 television.
One policeman was killed and Arutyunian fled into the woods. He was captured about an hour later and taken to a hospital for treatment of gunshot wounds.
Video released Thursday by Georgian authorities showed Arutyunian lying on a gurney being wheeled from the scene, one of his cheeks swollen and bloody. He made an obscene gesture at the camera.
There was no immediate indication from authorities whether he was connected to any separatist groups in Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia or nearby Chechnya. A news conference by the Interior Ministry was expected later Thursday.
In a statement Thursday, the U.S. Embassy in Georgia (search) said it "welcomes the news that the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs, through joint efforts with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, diligent detective work and a strong commitment to solving this case, have taken into custody a suspect." But the embassy declined comment on whether the FBI was involved in the arrest or follow-up.
Bush and Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili (search) were on the podium in front of thousands of people in Freedom Square in downtown Tbilisi when the live grenade was thrown. The grenade landed less than 100 feet from the podium but did not explode.
A preliminary investigation indicated the activation device deployed too slowly to hit the blasting cap hard enough, the FBI said.
Georgian officials initially claimed the grenade had not been set to explode, and U.S. officials said Bush had been in no danger, but officials they later said the grenade had been a threat to Bush's life.
Georgian authorities had released a photo Monday of the suspect and announced a reward of about $80,000 for information leading to his identification.
Officials Thursday gave out little information about Arutyunian, described in news reports as being in his mid-20s and unemployed. But Interior Ministry spokesman Guram Donadze said grenades and unspecified chemicals were found in a search of Arutyunian's residence.
The video showed police sorting through a pile of items apparently found in his apartment, including a book titled "Initial Military Training" that was part of the standard curriculum in Soviet schools.
Bush spoke from behind bulletproof glass as he addressed a huge crowd in a main Tbilisi square as part of a visit aimed at cementing relations between the United States and Georgia's new pro-Western leadership.
Saakashvili, who came to power after the 2003 Rose Revolution that ousted Eduard Shevardnadze (search), has provoked enmity with his anti-corruption initiatives and insistence on restoring control over two separatist regions.