Hundreds of staff were briefly evacuated from the head offices of Armenia’s largest mobile phone company on Tuesday in what turned out to be a third false bomb alert reported in the country in less than a week.
The Armenian Ministry of Emergency Situations said security forces joined by rescue workers and demining experts were rushed to the VivaCell-MTS company’s headquarters in downtown Yerevan after an anonymous caller told police that he planted a bomb there. It said they searched the building for about an hour and found no explosive devices.
Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS), meanwhile, announced the arrest of a man who it said is the author of a similar false alarm which delayed a Sunday flight from Yerevan to Amsterdam.
An NSS statement said the 43-year-old resident of the Armenian capital, Hayk Vartanian, has a long criminal record. It said nothing about his possible motives.
The Yerevan-Amsterdam flight was delayed after an anonymous call to the Yerevan airport administration saying a bomb is on board a plane which was due to carry out the flight.
The emergency was reported just three days after the entire Zvartnots international airport was shut down for several hours following a similar phone call warning of its impending bombing. Police and NSS teams using sniffer dogs found no explosives hidden there.
The NSS warned on Tuesday that “the authors of such deeds will be identified and punished with all the strictness of the law.”
False bomb alerts have not been uncommon in Armenia in the past. In 2007, for example, authorities had evacuate employees of a several government ministers as well as students of a school in central Yerevan following a series of such claims made over the phone.