By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The students and teachers of one of Yerevan’s largest secondary schools were evacuated by police on Friday after what turned out to be a false warning about a terrorist attack.
Security forces were searching its empty building adjacent to the U.S. embassy in Armenia but found no weapons or explosives. Scores of police cars and ambulances lined a nearby street in the city center.
Senior police officers at the scene said an anonymous caller, who sounded like a middle-aged man, told an aide to the school’s principal Gayane Sarukhanian that it will be a target of a terrorist attack which will start at midday. They said the man gave no other details.
“We were alerted at 10:30 that a terrorist act is being prepared against the school,” the chief of Yerevan’s police department, Nerses Nazarian, told RFE/RL. “Measures are being taken, the building is being checked. Our officers are inside the building. Nothing has been found so far.”
The Armenian police and the National Security Service launched an inquiry into the incident later in the day. A police spokesman said “measures are being taken to track down the person who gave the false information.”
The 11-year school named after prominent Russian writer Anton Chekhov has more than 1,300 students and is one of the most prestigious in the country.
The false terror alert came one month after apparently baseless rumors about deadly attacks on two Russian-language educational institutions planned by Chechen militants. A group of Chechen women were rumored to have arrived in Yerevan to target a school for the children of Russian servicemen stationed in Armenia as well as the Slavic University of Armenia partly financed by Russia.
Although the rumors were strongly denied by law-enforcement authorities, they reportedly spread among students. Newspaper reports said the management of the Slavic University tightened security at the entrance to its campus.
The rumors were engendered by the September bloodbath in a school in North Ossetia, an autonomous republic in the Russian Caucasus. Hundreds of schoolchildren taken hostage by Chechen terrorists were killed during a rescue operation launched by Russian security forces.