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Officer killed, 73 people injured in Armenia clashes

30 July 2016 22:22


One police officer was shot dead and more than 70 people were injured in new clashes between Armenian police and supporters of gunmen who have been barricaded in a police station in the capital Yerevan for the past two weeks.

Several hundred demonstrators gathered in front of the Erebuni police facility on Friday evening to voice solidarity with the 24 pro-opposition gunmen.

The demonstration turned violent when police attempted to disperse the large crowd and quell the unrest, using truncheons, stun grenades and smoke bombs. The clashes continued into the night and the early hours of Saturday.

Police said 165 protesters were detained during the unrest.

Three of the gunmen were injured in the exchange of fire with police on Friday. Two of them were taken to the hospital under armed guard.

On July 25, thousands of people held a similar protest in the capital to voice solidarity with the pro-opposition gunmen.

Gunmen stormed the police compound on July 17, killing a police officer, injuring two others and seizing a store of weapons. The attack was meant to demand the release of Zhirair Sefilyan, an opposition leader accused by the government of plotting civil unrest. Sefilyan was jailed in June over allegations of illegal weapons possession.

Armenian police detain opposition supporters blocking a street to the Erebuni police station seized by gunmen, supporters of jailed opposition leader Zhirair Sefilyan, in Yerevan, July 29, 2016. (AFP)

The assailants had taken nine people hostage but gradually released all of them. Police have cut electricity to the station and are refusing to deliver food after the release of the last hostage.

The gunmen, however, took hostage four medical staff on Wednesday. The staff had entered the place to treat some of their wounds.

Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland has already urged both parties to “put an end to this dangerous situation without delay.”

Sefilyan, an ethnic Armenian who was born in Lebanon and fought during the Arab country’s civil war of the 1980s, has served jail terms since 2006 on charges of attempting to overthrow the government. He is against President Serzh Sargsyan, who has been ruling the country of 2.9 million people since he won the disputed elections in 2008.

Sefilyan has accused Sargsyan of misusing the case of separatism in the Nagorno-Karabakh region to his political benefits. The area saw a flare-up of violence in April with dozens killed from Azerbaijan and Armenia before a Russia-brokered ceasefire came into force to end the conflict. Sporadic clashes have continued with both sides accusing each other of ignoring the truce agreement.

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