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Yerevan Policemen Injured Near Seized Building


Armenia - Protesters scuffle with riot police near a police station seized by opposition gunmen, Yerevan, 19Jul2016.

Armenia - Protesters scuffle with riot police near a police station seized by opposition gunmen, Yerevan, 19Jul2016.

The Armenian police said four of their officers were injured late on Tuesday while stopping a group of people from approaching a police station in Yerevan occupied by armed supporters of a jailed opposition leader.

Ashot Karapetian, the head of Yerevan’s police department, said the officers were struck by stones or other objects during what he called an attempt to break into an area cordoned off by security forces. They all required hospitalization, he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).

Karapetian said none of those civilians was detained as a result. The incident could not be independently confirmed immediately.

It apparently occurred several hundred meters away from a street section in the city’s southern Erebuni district where 200 or so people gathered on Tuesday in a show of support for the gunmen holding four other policemen hostage at the nearby building.

The angry crowd there tried to break through a police cordon when it heard the sound of gunshots coming from the seized building. Shortly afterwards, Varuzhan Avetisian, one of the gunmen holed up there, told the crowd by phone that they fired in the air because they thought that the police are using force against their protesting supporters.

Avetisian assured them that the security forces did not attack the compound which he and his associates stormed on Sunday to demand the release of Zhirayr Sefilian, the arrested leader of their Founding Parliament movement, and President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation.

Karapetian and other senior police officers at the scene gave similar assurances. Nikol Pashinian, an opposition lawmaker who has been allowed to meet with the gunmen and Sefilian in recent days, also sought to ease tension when he addressed the protesters later in the evening.

It emerged afterwards that the policemen were injured after being confronted by residents of the Sari Tagh district adjacent to the blocked section of Erebuni. Pashinian said that a group of locals confirmed the violence and voiced support for the police station attackers when he visited them late in the evening.

“The situation there remains tense,” Pashinian said in a live video broadcast on Facebook. He said he saw a police checkpoint on a Sari Tagh street leading to Erebuni.

The gunmen affiliated with the radical opposition group urged Armenians to join their “rebellion” immediately after their attack on the Erebuni police compound that left one senior policeman dead and four others wounded. Only small crowds have taken to the streets so far.

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