By Astghik BedevianA senior member of the Yerkrapah Union of Karabakh war veterans was gunned down along with an innocent passerby on a Yerevan street in broad daylight on Thursday.
Witnesses told RFE/RL that Sedrak Zatikian, head of the Yerkrapah chapter in the city’s Malatia-Sebastia district, was riddled with bullets fired from an expensive vehicle that chased his Mercedes SUV in Malatia-Sebastia early in the afternoon. They said the assailants shot indiscriminately for several minutes and escaped unscathed, leaving a trail of cartridge-cases that stretched for more than 100 meters. Zatikian apparently died at the wheel moments before crashing into a heavy truck.
One of the stray bullets hit and killed a pedestrian who was later identified by police as Karine Sargsian. The 37-year-old mother of three lived in a nearby apartment building.
Some local residents said they heard gunshots not only on Thursday afternoon. “They’ve been shooting for the last three days,” said one woman.
Police and prosecutors promptly cordoned off the area to conduct forensic tests and did not immediately make any arrests. Law-enforcement officers at the scene declined a comment. The Police Service said in a statement that it has launched a criminal investigation into what appears to be a contract killing.
The dead man was primarily known as a son of Vahan Zatikian, a prominent member of Yerkrapah who ran the Malatia-Sebastia district from 1996 until his sudden death in 1999. The late Zatikian also had extensive business interests in the area that were inherited by his two sons.
Sedrak and his younger earned nationwide notoriety in 2003 after being implicated in a massive gunfight with close relatives of Hakob Hakobian, another prominent Yerkrapah figure and Malatia-Sebastia businessman. The brothers hid from police for several months before making peace with Hakobian’s clan avoiding prosecution.
Yerkrapah leaders close to the Zatikian family refused to speculate about possible causes of the deadly shooting. “The Yerkrapah Union will do everything to help to identify those who committed the crime,” its deputy chairman, Miasnik Malkhasian, told RFE/RL.
Malatia-Sebastia is the de facto fiefdom of Samvel Aleksanian, a parliament deputy and one of Armenia’s richest men. Aleksanian was accused two years ago of waging a bloody vendetta against the extended family of Ruben Gevorgian, another Yerkrapah figure who held sway in Yerevan’s Davitashen district.