By Karine Kalantarian
Police confirmed on Friday an upsurge in murders and other serious crimes reported in Armenia during the first few weeks of this year, admitting that they were taken off the guard.
“January is usually a quiet month in terms of crime,” said Hovannes Hunanian, the deputy chief of the Armenian Police Service. “But January 2006 took us by surprise as it saw a number of really grave crimes.”
The year began with a series of armed robberies of currency exchange offices in Yerevan that resulted in several men being shot dead. One of them was a police officer. The police were quick to arrest a group of five men suspected of killing him and a security guard in the deadliest of the attacks.
Hunanian said all five suspects are citizens of Georgia, three of them of Armenian origin. “We managed to neutralize and arrest the entire group along with factual evidence,” he told reporters.
According to another senior police officer, Gagik Hambartsumian, there other Georgians were arrested last month on suspicion of burglarizing one and possibly more Yerevan apartments.
“This is not a new phenomenon,” explained Hunanian. “People always came here from abroad, including Georgia, Russia and other CIS countries, to commit crimes. No wonder that this year we have already arrested 18 foreign citizens for committing various crimes.”
More than a hundred foreigners, most of them Russian and Iranian nationals, were prosecuted in Armenia last year, he added.
An even more brazen crime took place last week when armed amen attacked and hijacked a car that had just collected a large sum of cash from a Yerevan bank, killing one person and wounding another in broad daylight. The robbers have still not been tracked down.
Hunanian assured reporters that a special investigative team set up by the police and state prosecutors is “actively” looking for them. “I think we will have something to tell you in the near future,” he said without elaborating.