A group of 20 gunmen that captured a police station in Yerevan on July 17 demanding the release of an opposition politician have surrendered. Two officers died in the standoff, which also triggered opposition protests with clashes and arrests.
“With their consistent and coordinated actions, special units of Armenian law enforcement bodies have forced members of the armed group to surrender to the authorities,” Armenia’s National Security Service said in a statement on July 31. “Twenty terrorists have been arrested.”
Those arrested face accusations of killing two police officers, but deny the charges.
The armed group seized the police station in the Erebuni district of Yerevan on July 17, taking several police officers hostage, while killing one in the process. Police cordoned off the area and began a siege.
Negotiations continued for two weeks. All of the hostages were released a week after the siege began, but the armed men then captured emergency responders who had come to tend the wounded. The last two were allowed to leave on Saturday.
Police gave the armed group an ultimatum to surrender on Saturday following fierce clashes with protestors that had come out to support the gunmen on Friday night. Though the armed group missed the deadline, no further police action was reportedly taken.
Police learned that the group had decided to surrender at 7:30 pm local time on Sunday. The gunmen eventually put down their arms at 8 pm and all twenty were taken into custody. Four members of the group had surrendered earlier in the week. At least seven were wounded in the attack and siege that followed.
The group’s demands included the release of Armenian opposition figure Jirair Sefilyan, who was detained on June 20 after authorities allegedly uncovered a plot to seize several buildings and telecommunication facilities in Yerevan.
In October, Jirayr Serfilyan and his opposition movement, “New Armenia,” announced that they would launch a “process of the civil disobedience and change of power.”
At a demonstration, Sefilyan openly said that he believes “achieving the shift of power only through elections is impossible; it can be achieved only by an armed rebellion of the people.”
The siege of the police station was accompanied by protests at the police cordons, as demonstrators came out to support the armed group.
On Friday, protesters marched around building, with some trying to storm through police lines. Police used flashbangs to disperse the crowd. At least 60 people were injured during the clashes, while dozens were reportedly detained.
This is not the first time the group’s supporters have clashed with police. On July 20, violence between police and demonstrators resulted in the injury of 51 people, 29 of whom were police officers. Police detained 136 protesters during those clashes.