Armenians protested against police violence in the capital city of Yerevan on July 19, and clashed with law enforcement resulting in the injury of four policemen, Arka news agency reports. The protests were sparked by dissatisfaction with the handling of a hostage standoff between a fringe opposition group and the police that began on July 17 and that resulted in one fatality and five injuries.
The fringe group, which staged the attack on a police station, comprises war veterans that are heavily armed and demand the resignation of President Serzh Sargsyan in exchange for freeing the four hostages they had taken. While the group - which was identified as Sasna Dzres (the Daredevils of Sassoun)- also intended to stage a coup d'etat, it did not receive sufficient public support in the early hours of its attack.
On the day of the attack, law enforcement blocked roads leading to Yerevan, social media for a few hours and arrested some 50 people on the streets, which it later released. However, small groups of people continued to gather demanding that police not respond with violence to the attack, but negotiate with the hostage takers. Negotiations have been ongoing for three days.
According to opposition MP Nikol Pashinyan, who has been involved in the negotiations, the altercation on July 19 stemmed after the rebels fired gunshots and protesters thought that the police had fired them instead. They proceeded to attempt to break the police cordon around the occupied station by throwing stones at law enforcement officers, injuring four. No civilians have been injured.
As the situation in Yerevan remains tense, the country's National Security Service (NSS) urged the population not to interfere with the ongoing negotiations or to hinder their efforts in a July 19 statement.
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