More Arrests Made As Armenian Hostage Crisis Drags On
Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) said on Friday that it has arrested several persons linked with gunmen occupying a police station in Yerevan and demanding President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation.
The NSS did not identify those individuals or specify their number. It accused them of “assisting in new planned crimes” but did not elaborate.
According to the NSS, one of them was arrested on Thursday while carrying a hand grenade to a section of Khorenatsi Street close to the seized station. Another detainee tried to transport Molotov cocktails to the scene of daily demonstrations held by the gunmen’s supporters, the law-enforcement body said in a statement.
The NSS statement said that the armed members of the Founding Parliament opposition group have been instructing their “accomplices” to provoke violence at the street section blocked by riot police.
“The NSS is warning that other individuals having real intentions to aid the armed group have also been identified and placed under surveillance by relevant state bodies,” it added without naming them.
Earlier this week, the NSS arrested Garo Yegnoukian, a senior Founding Parliament figure, as part of its criminal investigation into the armed attack. It also took into custody the owner of a heavy truck that transported the two dozen gunmen to the police compound in Yerevan’s Erebuni district.
The gunmen holding four police officers hostage urged Armenians to join their anti-government “rebellion” immediately after seizing the compound on Sunday morning. Several hundred people sympathetic to them have rallied at the Khorenatsi Street section on a daily basis since then.
About 200 protesters tried to break through a police cordon there and approach the seized police premises late on Wednesday. The police used tear gas and stun grenades to push them back.
The protests were unexpectedly rejoined on Friday evening by Nikol Pashinian, a popular parliament deputy leading the opposition Civil Contract party. Addressing the protesters, Pashinian said that he is ready to use the hostage situation to campaign for President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation. But he stressed that the push for regime change hinges on strong popular support.