The Armenian military officially confirmed on Friday the deaths of one officer and five soldiers in a mysterious shooting spree that occurred at one of its frontline detachments on Wednesday.
In a short statement, the Defense Ministry in Yerevan identified all six victims but gave no other details of the incident. The statement said only that it was the result of “a blatant violation of the rules of combat duty.”
It added that “all necessary measures are being taken to clarify the causes of the incident and bring the guilty to account in a manner envisaged by law.”
Other sources said the shooting took places at an Armenian army unit located in Nagorno-Karabakh’s southeastern Martuni district. One victim’s uncle, Khachik Sargsian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that his nephew served there.
“[Andranik Sargsian] was killed by three bullets,” he said by phone. “There are no traces of physical violence on his body.”
According to Artur Sakunts, a prominent Armenian human rights campaigner, the shootings were the work of another dead soldier, Karo Ayvazian. He claimed that Ayvazian went on a shooting spree after a fellow conscript was caught sleeping at an observation post on the main Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact.”
“When the lieutenant [Vardges Tadevosian] and a sergeant visited the post and saw that one of the soldiers there is asleep, they woke him up and started insulting and humiliating him,” Sakunts told RFE/RL. “Another soldier, who was not asleep, took his assault rifle and shot the lieutenant and the sergeant.”
“After the gunshots, three other soldiers rushed to the post and [Ayvazian] gunned them down too and committed suicide,” he said.
The incident, apparently the deadliest ever non-combat shooting in the Armenian Armed Forces, occurred the day after another army officer was found shot dead on Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan. The Defense Ministry claimed that Lieutenant Artak Nazarian, 30, most probably committed suicide. Nazarian’s relatives strongly denied that, saying that he was murdered by fellow servicemen.
The state human rights ombudsman, Armen Harutiunian, on Friday expressed serious concern about both incidents highlighting lingering abuse and other serious problems within the military. In a written statement, Harutiunian said they “complement a spate of murders committed at various army detachments” and will have “a negative influence on the army’s combat-readiness and the moral-psychological state of the society.”