Two Gunmen Reportedly Surrender, As Thousands Continue Anti-Government Protests
YEREVAN—Gunfire erupted at a police compound that has been seized by an armed group calling itself the “Daredevils of Sasoun” early Wednesday morning local time. Police reported that two of the armed gunmen and one police officer were wounded and were immediately rushed to the hospital.
The police public information officer, Ashot Aharonyan, confirmed that two members of the “Daredevils of Sasoun,” Pavel Manoukyan and his son, Aram, along with a police officer were injured doing the shooting.
On his Facebook post, Aharonyan said that two members of the “Daredevils,” Gagik Yeghiazaryan and Aram Hakobyan had surrendered to the police. Others reported that the two did not surrender but were forcibly removed. Police reporters that negotiations were underway to end the standoiff.
This came following an even larger demonstration through the streets of Yerevan, gathering for rally at Khorentasi Street steps away from the police compound, which was seized on July 17 by the “Daredevils of Sasoun,” who are demanding the release of opposition leader Jirair Sefilian, who was arrested in June. The group is also demanding the resignation of President Serzh Sarkisian.
Soon after the gunfire incident, police began rounding up protesters who had remained on Khorenatsi Street, among them women.
A similar shootout took place between the police and the “Daredevils” early Tuesday morning at the compound, injuring two members of the group who surrendered and were taken to the hospital.
The Tuesday shooting began when a police SUV driven by one of the armed men unexpectedly emerged from the seized police compound and approached a nearby police barricade prompting security forces to shoot at the assailants, police said in a statement.
“The vehicle almost reached the cordon, after which law-enforcers fired on its engine and tires in order to stop the car and stave off a serious danger emanating from three armed men seated inside it,” said the statement. Two of them were wounded in the leg as a result, it said, according to Azatutyun.am
Video of the incident separately circulated by the police shows the car’s visibly wounded driver running back towards the police station. Another gunman can be seen dragging away the second wounded man.
According to the police statement, the two gunmen subsequently gave up themselves before being taken to the nearest hospital in Yerevan. Hospital officials confirmed that the men identified as Ashot Petrosian and Hovannes Harutiunian are undergoing medical treatment there.
The police video shows that the police car carrying the three gunmen had a white flag attached to it.
This incident occurred a few hours after the gunmen set three police vehicles on fire in protest of the authorities’ decision to cut off cell phone service, electricity and food supplies to the compound.
Sefilian Wants to Negotiate with Government
Sefilian, the jailed opposition leader whose release is one of the demands of the armed group that has seized the police compound called on Armenian authorities to begin negotiations with him to end the 10-day standoff.
Sefilian appealed to the authorities the day after his lawyer, Ara Zakarian, said that he is ready to stop demanding Sarkisian’s resignation “for the moment,” reported Azatutyun.am.
“We have a clear political program of peacefully resolving the problem,” Sefilian said in a statement sent to RFE/RL’s Armenian’s service (Azatutyun.am) through Zakarian.
“It is evident that the delay in the launch of a negotiation process is leading to an escalation of the situation, which could result in more clashes, injuries and casualties,” he warned.
Vitaly Balasanyan, a retired Nagorno-Karabakh military leader who was acting as a mediator between the “Daredevils of Sasoun” and the government, signaled on Sunday that Sarkisian would meet with Sefilian if the armed group surrenders and vacates the police compound. This came a day after the group released four hostages through Balasanyan’s mediation