Assassination Attempt On Ghoukassian Fails; 28 Arrested Including Former Armed Forces Chief

STEPANAKERT (Noyan Tapan)–An attempt on the life of Nagorno Karabakh Republic President Arkady Ghoukassian was made near his residence as the president was returning home from work March 22–12:30 a.m. Unknown persons opened fire on the president’s car. Although the president was seriously wounded–doctors say his life is not in danger. Former Karabakh Army commander Samvel Babayan is among 28 arrested for the act.

The president’s bodyguard and driver Sergey Sargssian and bodyguard Samvel Gabrielian were also seriously wounded. The terrorists fled when the security guards retaliated.

The Prosecutor’s Office instituted a criminal case in connection with the terrorist attack. An operational group was assigned to investigate. Several persons have already been arrested on suspicion of plotting and committing the act.

A government source in Karabakh told Reuters that Goukassian–42–had been taken to the Armenian capital Yerevan later on Wednesday and was being treated in hospital. He described Ghoukassian’s condition as "satisfactory."

Karabakh health minister Ararat Mkrtchyan said doctors had earlier operated on Ghoukassian’s legs. "The wounds are of medium severity. Doctors from Karabakh and Armenia worked on him all night. He is stable," he told regional television.

The Government of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic released a statement reading:

"An attempt on the life of President Arkady Ghoukassian was committed in Stepanakert–near the Presidential Residence–on March 22–12:30 a.m. The president was seriously wounded in the attack–but doctors are giving assurances that his life is out of danger.

The president’s bodyguards Sergey Sargssian and bodyguard Samvel Gabrielian were seriously wounded in the attack.

The Nagorno Karabakh Republic Government strongly condemns this unprecedented terrorist act and regards it as a criminal attempt against Karabakh’s statehood.

Karabakh authorities and the public have no doubts that it is the new policy aimed at effecting political reforms and forming a healthy moral and psychological atmosphere in the republic that caused a fierce reaction from the circles based on unlawfulness.

The Karabakh government is giving assurances that the instigators and perpetrators of this unforgivable crime will be punished in all strictness of the law.

The Presidential Press Office released a statement by Robert Kocharian:

"The attempt on the life of Nagorno Karabakh Republic President Arkady Ghoukassian committed on March 22 morning is a challenge to the people of Karabakh–who showed resolution to be the masters of their destiny at difficult times.

I strongly condemn this terrorist attack and express my unconditional support for the Karabakh President–the Government of Karabakh and its policies.

I am optimistic that those responsible for the terror will be found as soon as possible–committed for trial and punished in all the stringency of the law. The Republic of Armenia will render every assistance to Karabakh authorities in this matter."

Nagorno Karabakh Republic Prosecutor General Mavrik Ghoukassian issued an order appointing an operational investigative group consisting of First Deputy Prosecutor General Aramais Avagian–First Deputy Minister of the Interior Arshavir Garamian–investigators of the Prosecutor’s Office–Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of National Security. The operational investigative group is headed by Prosecutor General Mavrik Ghoukassian.

28 persons have been detained on suspicion of complicity in the crime. Weapons and ammunition were discovered in some of the detainees’ flats. The investigation is still underway.

According to sources–former Defense Minister of Nagorno Karabakh Republic Samvel Babayan was arrested in Stepanakert on suspicion of being involved in the attempt on the life of Karabakh President Arkady Ghoukassian.

The Karabakh representation in Armenia and the Karabakh government press office neither confirmed nor dismissed the information about Babayan’s arrest.

The information of the death of one of the bodyguards of Ghoukassian spread by several of Armenia’s mass media is false. The president’s bodyguard and driver–Sergey Sargssian–who received the most serious wounds–was immediately hospitalized and is currently being operated on by neurosurgeons who arrived in Stepanakert from Yerevan. The lives of all the victims are out of danger.

Social Welfare and Health Minister Ararat Mkrtchian announced that medical aid was administered to the victims on location by a team of doctors who had arrived in Stepanakert from Armenia.

The Nagorno Karabakh Republic National Assembly also issued a statement. The law-makers condemned the unprecedented attack on the head of state–describing it as a barbarous attempt to curb the current reforms.

The parliamentarians urge the public to exercise restraint–giving assurances that the authorities will do everything possible to expose and punish the plotters and perpetrators of the crime.

The ARF Central Committee of Artsakh issued a statement condemning the March 22 attack.

The statement called the attack an encroachment on the country’s statehood.

The ARF CC expects the President to take steps to restore law in the country–and ensure that crimes committed in the country over the years be disclosed.

The announcement calls for restraint and unity not to yield to possible provocation–hoping that law-enforcement bodies will manage to expose the plotters of the attack within the shortest period of time.

Several political party representatives also issued statemen’s regarding this latest travesty.

"As I am not familiar with the details–I can only say that all this is disgusting and shameful," National-Democratic Union leader Vazgen Manoukian told National Television.

Hrant Voskanian–the leader of the Communist faction in parliament–underlined that any forced solution to the problem is inadmissible.

It is immoral to solve political issues using criminal methods. The government bodies must to show firm determination–otherwise the consequences will be irreversible.

Artashes Geghamian–the leader of the "Right & Unity" faction in parliament–said that "while tendencies towards relieved tensions are being observed in Armenia–more similar ordeals fall on the heads of the people."

"Destabilization in Armenia and Karabakh must be playing into the hands of those forces which fear the establishment of stability and rule of law," said Geghamian.

Hrant Khachatrian–the Chairman of the "Constitutional Right" Union (representing the same faction as Geghamian)–expressed the opinion that the incident is aimed against the Karabakh settlement.

He expressed his belief that external forces must certainly have had some influence on the situation. "I urge all healthy forces to concentrate their attention on the system of security and internal affairs," Khachatrian underscored.

The attempt on Ghoukassian’s life will not influence the process of negotiations over the settlement of the Karabakh conflict–reported Itar-Tass quoting Azeri Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev.

In his words–"Ghoukassian has not played a particular role in the conflict settlement process." The situation in Karabakh is complicated and such an event was inevitable–said Guliev.

According to Itar-Tass–Azeri President Haydar Aliyev said the terrorist act it not connected with the Karabakh conflict resolution process.

"What is happening in Armenia and Karabakh is a domestic affairs and I would like to wish them political stability," said Aliyev.

He also said Azerbaijan is in favor of regulating the conflict through peaceful means.

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