The Pankisi Gorge (Georgian: პანკისის ხეობა, Pankisis Kheoba) or Pankisi (პანკისი) is a valley region in Georgia, in the upper reaches of River Alazani just south of Georgia’s historic region of Tusheti between Mt Borbalo and the ruined 17th-century fortress of Bakhtrioni. Administratively, it is included in the Akhmeta municipality of the Kakheti region. An ethnic group called Kists of Chechen roots form the majority (75%) in the area.
It had allegedly often been used as a base for transit, training and shipments of arms and financing by Chechen rebels and Islamic militants, including foreign fighters from Afghanistan and Arab countries, many of whom followed Ruslan Gelayev. Most of these accusations were around 2002, but others allege that it is more peaceful now, although there are still many Chechen refugees living there. The senior ISIS leader "Omar the Chechen" grew up in the area, where his family still lives, and in 2014 Omar reportedly threatened to return to the area to lead a Muslim attack on Russian Chechnya.
Landmine Monitor warns of antipersonnel mines being laid in the Gorge. A number of casualties have resulted from landmines still being encountered in the Gorge.
The situation in the Pankisi Gorge received an extensive fictional treatment factoring into several of the popular John Ringo anti-terrorism military science fiction books in the Kildar series.
- Kleveman, Lutz, 'The New Great Game', Grove Press New York, 2003 page 35; sourced from New York Times August 15, 2002.
- BBC News, Russia's reach unnerves Chechens, Wednesday, 16 January 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7189024.stm Retrieved September 29, 2010.
- UNHCR, 'Chechen refugees in Pankisi Gorge resume normal life after Georgia scare', 1 October 2008. http://www.unhcr.org/48e389e12.html Retrieved September 29, 2010.
- "LM Report 2002". 2005-02-25. Retrieved 2007-01-15.
- "LM Report 2006". 2006-09-12. Retrieved 2007-01-15.
- Shorena Kurtsikidze & Vakhtang Chikovani, Ethnography and Folklore of the Georgia-Chechnya Border: Images, Customs, Myths & Folk Tales of the Peripheries, Munich: Lincom Europa, 2008.
- Shorena Kurtsikidze and Vakhtang Chikovani, Georgia's Pankisi Gorge: An Ethnographic Survey, Berkeley Program in Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies,University of California, Berkeley, Spring 2002.(http://escholarship.org/uc/item/64d7v9hj)
- Rebecca Gould, “Secularism and Belief in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge,” Journal of Islamic Studies 22.3(2011): 339-373. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1927686
- Georgia Sustainment and Stability Operations Program