Georgia''s Interior Ministry said on Monday that four people have been arrested in the breakaway province of South Ossetia, following claims by local authorities that the men were abducted by Georgia.

"We can confirm that these people were detained. They were detained on suspicion of committing various crimes, including drug-related offenses," ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said.

Earlier in the day, authorities in the rebel region issued a statement saying: "On July 20, at around 11:00 p.m. [20:00 GMT], Georgia took four citizens of the republic of South Ossetia hostage."

South Ossetia''s interior ministry told RIA Novosti that according to preliminary information the four South Ossetian residents had been seized by Georgian security forces in the village of Eredvi , located on the territory of the self-proclaimed republic, and were currently being held in the Georgian town of Gori .

" Georgia asserts that the hostages were taken in response to the detainment by South Ossetia of Georgian citizen Teimuraz Goginashvili, a resident of the village of Nikozi , who is suspected of murdering Ossetians," the department said.

It also said that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was involved in attempts to resolve the issue.

South Ossetia declared its independence from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, resulting in a bloody conflict that killed hundreds of people. The pro-Western Georgian leadership has said it is determined to bring the breakaway region, along with the rebel region of Abkhazia, back under Tbilisi ''s control.