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Iran Press TV

Armenia gunmen release all remaining hostages

Iran Press TV

Sat Jul 23, 2016 1:36PM

Armenian officials say a standoff between security forces and armed men in a police headquarters in the capital Yerevan is over as gunmen agree to release all the remaining hostages.

Vitaly Balasanian, a member of parliament who has been a mediator between authorities and the gunmen, said Saturday that the armed men released two last hostages, namely Yerevan's deputy police chief Valery Osipyan and national deputy police chief Vardan Yeghiazaryan, around noon local time.

Officials in the Armenian police also confirmed the end of the standoff in the police headquarters in Erebuni district, saying that came after an agreement was reached to establish a media center near the site to give the armed men an opportunity to speak to the media about their demands.

Gunmen stormed the facility on July 17 and killed a police officer and injured two others. 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.

Of the total nine people taken hostage, the gunmen released two in the beginning of the attack and three more on Monday. Two police officers were also released earlier on Saturday after negotiations with the hostage-takers, police said.

Officials would not elaborate on the exact number of armed men remaining in the Erebuni police station, neither was it clear if they would eventually be arrested.

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 Armenia-backed Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh 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 though with both sides accusing each other of ignoring the truce agreement.

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