An organized group of armed men has seized control of a police station in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital. At least one officer was killed, and there are two wounded, as authorities establish negotiations with the radicals.
The assault occurred at 5:30 a.m. local time. The armed unit is known as Sasna Dzres (Daredevils of Sassoun), who are part of the militant group the Freedom Fighters Union. They drove a vehicle through the door, and eight officers were inside at the time of the event. One of them was evacuated due to hypertension.
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The assault took place to demand the release of Jirair Sefilian, the leader of the opposition and a military commander. Sefilian was arrested on June 20, accused of creating turmoil against the current regime and of illicit possession of weapons. Armenian lawmakers argue that Sefilian was planning a coup against the current government. The group is also demanding President Sargsyan to step down from his position. They have invited journalists to enter the police station, but government authorities have denied private access to the premises.
“Armenian people, it depends on you… go out to the street. We are a single unit, and we cannot reach our goal alone. There is no other way; we had to resort to this step,” the group stated in a video released three hours after the attack.
Two hostages have already been freed, and there are at least seven others remaining. Yerevan deputy police chief Valeri Osipyan and Armenia’s deputy police chief Vardan Egiazaryan are among those being held hostage.
The videos posted on Facebook and Youtube display the gunmen armed with Kalashnikov rifles and bulletproof vests, speaking their demands through a loud speaker.
“Dear compatriots. It has started. We ask everyone to take to the streets. Our demand is to set free all political prisoners… and for them to be brought here.”
According to CivilNet.AM, the Deputy to the Chief of Police Hounan Boghosyan, stated that the requirements of the armed group would not be fulfilled, emphasizing that Sefilian will not be released. Chief Boghosyan also announced that it was Officer Arthur Vanoyan who got killed as the police station was attacked. He asserts that negotiations are taking place for the armed group to surrender, but that the police department is ready to disarm the assailants if negotiations do not deem beneficial results.
— CivilNet.AM (@CivilNetTV) July 17, 2016
Lawmaker Nigol Pashinyan entered the police station and confirmed the demands of the group. He was supposed to meet with opposition leader Sefilian, but he was not allowed to do so. Pashinyan also informed authorities that one of the members of the armed group needed a blood transfusion.
Currently, the city of Yerevan is in a state of high alert. Riot control vehicles have been deployed, roads leading to the city are blocked, and transiting vehicles are searched as the pass the police checkpoints.