YEREVAN—An armed group that was arrested Wednesday by the National Security Service of Armenia was plotting assassinations, according agency’s deputy chief Mikael Hambarstumyan who detailed some of the agency’s findings during a press conference on Friday.
Armenian security forces arrested 10 people on Wednesday and said they have found a big weapons cache when the raided a house in Yerevan’s North Nork district, The NSS accused the group of “particularly grave crimes,” which they said were averted due to the arrests.
On Friday, Hambartsumyan told a press conference that the 10, and an additional 11 individuals arrested since the Wednesday raid, were “plotting assassinations” targeting “civilians, different branches of government and other state bodies.”
While Hambartsumyan did not elaborate on specific acts the group was allegedly planning, he did say that the plot his team uncovered may have resulted in the loss of civilian life.
After the arrests Wednesday, in a statement the NSS described the detainees, among them four women, as members of a “criminal association” led by a 34-year-old Armenian citizen, Artur Vartanian, who the NSS claims was living abroad—said to be Spain–returned to Armenia in April to carry out the alleged plot
In its statement on Wednesday, the NSS claimed that Vartanian recruited 19 “mainly unemployed people,” and had seized a large cache of arms, among which 10 Kalashnikov rifles, 60 hand grenades, two rocket-propelled grenade launchers and two makeshift explosive devices were identified.
On Monday, the US Embassy in Armenia, in a written statement to azatutyun.am said that the United States will consider helping Armenian law-enforcement authorities investigate political assassinations and other terrorist attacks in Armenia that were allegedly plotted by the 21 people arrested.
“We are closely following the detention of 21 individuals in connection with an alleged conspiracy to commit political assassinations and other terrorist acts in Armenia,” the U.S. Embassy statement said.
“We are not aware that these detentions relate to any threats against American citizens in Armenia at this time. Nonetheless these allegations are serious, and the United States will consider Armenian requests to aid in its investigation,” it said without elaborating.
The U.S. mission also urged the authorities in Yerevan to be “as transparent as possible in reporting on the progress of this investigation.”