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Armenian Authorities ‘Still Negotiating’ With Hostage Takers


Armenia -- Armenian police officers block the streets to Erebuni police station where gunmen are holding hostages in Yerevan on July 19, 2016.

Armenia -- Armenian police officers block the streets to Erebuni police station where gunmen are holding hostages in Yerevan on July 19, 2016.

Armenian law-enforcement authorities said on Wednesday that they have no plans yet to storm a police station in Yerevan three days after it was seized by gunmen affiliated with a hardline opposition group.

The National Security Service (NSS) said they are continuing to negotiate with the armed associates of Zhirayr Sefilian, the jailed leader of the Founding Parliament movement, in an effort to ensure their surrender and the release of four police officers held hostage by them.

“Special units of Armenia’s law-enforcement bodies remain at their highest state of readiness but there are no prerequisites necessary for their active operations for the time being,” the NSS said in a statement.

“Negotiations are continuing,” the Armenian police spokesman, Ashot Aharonian, told reporters. Neither he nor the NSS gave details of those contacts.

The gunmen reportedly numbering 18 are primarily demanding that the authorities release Sefilian, who was arrested last month on charges of plotting to seize government buildings. They also want President Serzh Sarkisian to resign.

The authorities have given no indications that they are ready to meet any of these demands.

Security forces are continuing to cordon off a section in Yerevan’s southern Erebuni district surrounding the seized compound of an Armenian police unit tasked with protecting government buildings and patrolling streets.

More than 200 supporters of the Founding Parliament gunmen rallied on an Erebuni street section close to the compound late on Tuesday. They were expected to again gather there on Wednesday morning.

Sarkisian has still not personally commented on the hostage crisis. Nor has he been seen in public since the gunmen attacked the police building early on Sunday.

Armenia -- The truck which was used during the armed attack on Armenian police station, Yerevan, 17Jul2016

Armenia -- The truck which was used during the armed attack on Armenian police station, Yerevan, 17Jul2016

It emerged, meanwhile, that the law-enforcement authorities have arrested the owner of a heavy truck that transported the gunmen to the Erebuni police building and rammed into its protective stone fence during the surprise attack that left one policeman dead.

The truck owner, Khachatur Gichian, is a Founding Parliament supporter. His lawyer told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that Gichian was formally charged and remanded in pre-trial custody on Wednesday.

Also detained was Garo Yegnoukian, a well-known Founding Parliament member who was not involved in the armed attack. Yegnoukian’s wife said law-enforcement officers took him into custody after searching their Yerevan apartment.

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