Armenian law-enforcement authorities announced on Friday a nationwide hunt for three individuals who they said were behind a brazen shooting in downtown Yerevan which left one man dead and another gravely wounded.
The two residents of Alaverdi, a town in Armenia’s northern Lori province, were shot just outside a hotel in broad daylight on Thursday. One of them, the 43-year-old Gagik Mosinian, died on the spot, while the other, the 39-year-old Vahagn Abgarian, was rushed to hospital with serious wounds.
The gunshots shattered the hotel’s entrance door and left at least a dozen bullet holes on its walls. They were fired just meters away from the city’s Vernissage souvenir market popular with foreign tourists. Law-enforcement officers continued to examine the crime scene on Friday afternoon.
Armenia’s Investigative Committee identified three men who it said ambushed Mosinian, Abgarian and their companions. It said law-enforcement bodies are now trying to track down and arrest Rafik Khachatrian, Albert Blbulian, and Armen Karadavidov. Two of them also live in Alaverdi, it added.
The committee said nothing about motives behind the shooting.
For their part, the Armenian police claimed that the crime has already been solved even if the three suspects are on the run. “A crime is considered solved when individuals [involved in it] and certain circumstances are clear,” the police, spokesman, Ashot Aharonian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). He declined to specify those circumstances.
Some Armenian newspapers have attributed the shooting to a bitter feud between two Alaverdi clans which results from mayoral elections held in the industrial town. They have said that the shooting victims are linked to its pro-government mayor, Karen Paremuzian.
Nikol Pashinian, an opposition leader, echoed those claims in a statement made on the parliament floor on Friday. Pashinian linked the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) to what he described as two criminal groups from Alaverdi that are continuing to settle scores.
He charged that they helped the HHK win votes in the area during the April 2017 parliamentary elections. “They feel that they are part of the authorities,” he said.
“This has nothing to do with elections,” countered Vahram Baghdasarian, the HHK’s parliamentary leader who is a native of Lori. Baghdasarian also rejected harsh media and opposition criticism of the Armenian police that followed the Yerevan shooting.
Media commentators point to similar shootings that have occurred in Alaverdi and elsewhere in the country in recent months. They attribute the deadly incidents to impunity enjoyed by government loyalists with dubious reputations.