By Ruzanna Stepanian
Armenia is immune to the kind of deadly terrorist attacks that have rocked major Western cities in recent years, the chief of its military intelligence service claimed on Wednesday.
“I am confident that no terrorist acts and especially international terrorist acts will take place in Armenia,” Basentsi Azoyan told RFE/RL in a rare interview. “There are no grounds for that.”
Azoyan argued that bombings and other terrorist acts are usually carried out in by Islamist extremists and separatist groups fighting a central government. None of them operate in Armenia, he said.
But Azoyan at the same time cautioned that radical Islamic organizations “may pose a threat to Armenia” in the event of a renewed war with Muslim Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. “We must therefore help to expose those groups all over the world,” he said.
Armenia’s two other neighbors, Iran and Turkey, also have predominantly Muslim populations. But with the Turkish-Armenian border closed and Armenian-Iranian relations warm, the risk of terrorist infiltrations from those countries appears minimal.
The counterintelligence service is one of the most secretive divisions of the Armenian military and is formally part of its General Staff. According to Azoyan, the main focus of its unpublicized activities is to stave off “periodical” attempts by Azerbaijan to send sabotage and reconnaissance groups into Armenia.
“There have been numerous attempts by sabotage or intelligence groups to enter Armenia,” he said. “There have even been cases where some agents reached Yerevan. But they were all exposed and rendered harmless.”
The official claimed that the most recent such incident took place last year. But he refused to given any details.