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Armenia police station siege gunmen surrender, 20 arrested

A group of anti-government gunmen who have been holed up in an Armenian police station for two weeks surrendered Sunday.

Published: 31st July 2016 11:20 PM  |   Last Updated: 31st July 2016 11:53 PM   |  A+A-

Armania Attack_AP

Riot police block the street towards the Presidential Residence to prevent a march of anti-government protesters, supporters of the armed group who have been holed inside a police station, in Yerevan, Armenia. (AP)

By AFP

YEREVAN, Armenia: A group of anti-government gunmen who have been holed up in an Armenian police station for two weeks surrendered Sunday, security services said, ending a tense stand-off that left two police officers dead and saw several people taken hostage.

The gunmen gave themselves up a day after police warned they would storm the building to draw a line under the crisis, which had sparked huge protests by opposition supporters in the capital Yerevan.

"The security forces' anti-terrorist operation has ended and led to the members of the armed group laying down their weapons and surrendering to the authorities," the national security services said in a statement.

"Twenty terrorists were arrested," it said.

"The territory of the police station has been liberated."

The last hostages, two medics, were freed by the gunmen late Saturday.

An Armenian website had earlier Sunday published what it said was a statement from one of the gunmen inside the police station, saying they were ready to surrender.

"We will continue our struggle from prison. We believe that we have achieved our goal: we became the spark that allowed people to rise up and it makes no sense to spill blood," Varuzhan Avetisyan was quoted as saying.

The gunmen plunged Armenia into turmoil when they stormed a police station in Yerevan on July 17, killing an officer and taking several others hostage.

They said they were demanding the release of jailed opposition leader Zhirair Sefilyan and the resignation of President Serzh Sarkisian.

They let the officers go but then took four medical workers hostage before gradually freeing them too.

On Saturday a second officer was killed by a sniper who authorities said was firing from inside the seized police compound, a claim denied by the gunmen.

The hostage drama triggered mass protests by thousands of pro-opposition demonstrators, who took to the streets calling for President Sarkisian's resignation.

Violence erupted at a rally on Friday, when police used truncheons, stun grenades and smoke bombs to disperse the crowds. More than 70 people were injured, including journalists, and dozens were arrested.

The United States and the European Union both voiced concern over the unrest.



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