By Shakeh Avoyan
Law-enforcement authorities in the southern Armenian province of Armavir have made four more arrests as part of a criminal inquiry into Tuesday’s murder of a local village chief, officials said on Thursday.
The arrested are suspected of being linked to a man who is said to have shot dead Zorik Badalian, the head of the Norapat village administration. Local residents say Badalian, 51, was gunned down in a dispute over the ownership of a local retail market.
His alleged assailant, identified as Gagik Petrosian, is a resident of the neighboring Janfida village. Petrosian was taken into custody several hours after the shooting.
Law-enforcement officials in Yerevan would not comment on circumstances of the incident, saying that the investigation is not yet complete. The interior ministry spokesman, Artak Vartazarian, confirmed that special police forces were deployed in Norapat and Janfida to prevent possible clashes between their residents. Vartazarian said that tension was still running high there on Thursday.
It also emerged that the arrested men are members of the influential Yerkrapah Union of Nagorno-Karabakh war veterans. Norapat villagers claim that they enjoyed the backing of some Yerkrapah leaders in the dispute with the murdered village chief. The deputy chairman of the organization, parliament deputy Miasnik Malkhasian, declined to comment on the allegations.
An informed source, meanwhile, told RFE/RL that the suspected killer of Badalian initially went on the run but was later told by Yerkrapah leaders to surrender to police.