Armenian police clash with anti-government protesters in Yerevan

July 19, 2016 1:30 pm

Armenian police officers detain a protester in Yerevan on July 18, 2016. ©AFP

Clashes have erupted between
Armenian police and the protesters demanding a peaceful solution to a
deadly hostage standoff in Yerevan, which has entered its third day.

Up
to two thousands of protesters gathered on Freedom Square in central
Yerevan on Monday, trying to march on police headquarters which was
overtaken by armed men over the weekend.
Reports say opposition
activist David Sanasaryan organized the rally and called on citizens in
the capital to take to the streets in an anti-government protest.
“I am against armed struggle, but a good deed has been launched, so let’s join it,” Sanasaryan said.
Armenia’s
deputy police chief, Unan Pogosyan, who was at the scene, warned the
protesters not to “exacerbate the situation” by proceeding with the
march on the seized police station.
The demonstration, however,
turned violent as the demonstrators failed to heed police warnings and
tried to break through police cordon.
There have been no reports of casualties during the scuffles.

Armenian activists chant slogans during a protest in central Yerevan on July 18, 2016. © AFPEventually, the activists reached an agreement with police to continue the rally as long as they did not approach the station.
Over
a dozen armed men affiliated with an opposition group attacked the
police building in Yerevan at dawn on Sunday, killing one police officer
and wounding a number of others.
The hostage takers, who remain
holed up inside the place with a number of people, have called for the
release of opposition leader Zhirair Sefilyan. They also want the
government to step down.
Sefilyan was arrested last month over
alleged possession of firearms. The opposition leader had been accused
in the past of plotting a violent overthrow of the government.
After
intense negotiations, the armed men released two hostages overnight on
Monday, according to the National Security Service of Armenia. The
special forces had also helped release two other hostages a day earlier.
Among
the captives, who are believed to be five, are two high-ranking police
officers. Authorities said they are optimistic about negotiating a
peaceful release of the remaining hostages.
“Law enforcement
agencies are doing everything possible to end this peacefully, but in
the circumstances it might not be enough,” said a statement from the
National Security Service.
Officials said they have not yet planned for a special operation against the hostage takers.

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