Armenia’s Deputy Interior Minister Fatally Gunned Down

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan–Reuters–RFE/RL)–Deputy Minister of the Interior and National Security and the commander of the Armenia’s Interior Ministry forces Artsrun Markarian was gunned down Tuesday by unknown assailants–a spokesman for the Interior and Security Ministry said.

He said Markarian’s body had been found on a highway linking the capital Yerevan and the mountain lake of Sevan–but gave no further details.

Markarian survived a previous assassination attempt on January 21–1998 when he escaped with a leg injury.

An official in the interior and national security ministry told RFE/RL that Markarian’s body was found on Tuesday on a major highway running north of Yerevan.

He said law-enforcement bodies were already investigating the killing but refused to give any other details.

Sources in the prosecutor’s office said the troops commander was killed with two shots–with bullets found in his head and chest.

Armenian state television reported that investigators found a pistol loaded with seven bullets in Markarian’s pocket.

It said "the circle of individuals" whom Markarian met in the last few days has been identified and "interrogations are underway."

Markarian was no stranger to assassination plots. He was a target of a shooting on Jan. 21–1998–when he rushed to State Hospital No. 1 for emergency surgery after being fired on from a white BMW.

That incident reportedly took place near Markarian’s home. An unknown person twice fired at Markarian with an unidentified gun.

Days following this foiled assassination attempt–in a short statement for reporters at the hospital–Markarian said "I don’t want any individual or political party to politically exploit the incident."

"The case is now under investigation and it will soon be revealed what really happened. No one is entitled to create a topic for political speculation in connection with these events either on my behalf or on behalf of anybody else," Markarian had said following the first attempt on his life last year.

A day before the Markarian statement–Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsyan told journalists–that Markarian was warned of the assassination plot him and implicated the ruling authorities of the day of masterminding the attempt on the deputy’s life.

Markarian’s reported death is the latest in a series of assassinations of senior government officials in Armenia. Last August–Prosecutor-General Henrik Khachatrian was shot dead in his office by one of his subordinates–according to the official version. In early December–Vahram Khorkhoruni–a deputy minister of defense–was gunned down in front of his apartment building in Yerevan.

The assailants have not been tracked down so far. Markarian also held the post of deputy minister of interior and national security.

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