A retired army general who was the main opposition candidate in Nagorno-Karabakh’s last presidential election has reportedly discovered a makeshift bomb attached to his car in what law-enforcement authorities suspect was an attempt to assassinate him.
Prosecutors in Stepanakert said the undetonated bomb was tied to the underside of the car before it was noticed by General Vitaly Balasanian on Sunday evening. They said law-enforcement officers alerted by him defused the device containing 600 grams of explosive material.
“An unknown individual … did not finish the crime due to circumstances that were beyond their control,” read a statement released by them. It did not elaborate.
The statement also said that a criminal case has been opened under articles of the Criminal Code dealing with murder attempts and illegal arms possession. No arrests were reported as of Monday evening.
Balasanian made no public statements on the incident. According to Hayk Khanumian, a Karabakh opposition activist close to him, the bomb “miraculously” fell off as the general rode in his car together with other persons. “They noticed that and called the police,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Balasanian, 54, was a prominent Karabakh Armenian field commander during the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan. A member of the Karabakh parliament, he has grown critical of the disputed territory’s current leadership in recent years. He challenged Bako Sahakian, the incumbent Karabakh president, in a presidential election held in July 2012.
According to the official vote results, Sahakian won a second term in office with 66.7 percent of the vote, while Balasanian got 32.5 percent. The general questioned the official tally, saying that the vote was “free but not fair.”
Balasanian, who is not affiliated with any political party, announced plans to set up his own opposition group shortly after the presidential ballot. However, he subsequently refrained from doing that for unknown reasons.
Karabakh is due to hold its next parliamentary elections in 2014.