Armenia's prime minister killed in parliament shooting
Other government officials shot; many hostages held
October 27, 1999
At least five people, including the parliament speaker Karen Demirchian, deputy parliamentary speaker Yuri Bakhshyan and Operative Issues Minister Leonard Petrosyan, were killed in the stunning raid. A number of others were wounded. Sargsyan was said to have been shot several times in the chest.
Vage Gabrielian, a spokesman for Armenian President Robert Kocharian, said the president had gone to the parliament building where the gunmen were holding as many as 150 hostages.
'Individual terrorists' blamed
A reporter inside the building said the gunmen were claiming to have staged a coup, but Gabrielian said the government believed the gunmen were "individual terrorists" and asserted the government was in "complete control" of the country.
He said the gunmen had not claimed affiliation with any group.
"It's only the parliament building and a very small group," he said.
Pictures from the parliament session showed three men with guns opening fire.
Witnesses said the prime minister was apparently the target of the attack.
Hagop Aveikian of the AZG newspaper said a reporter for his newspaper saw the men enter, curse the prime minister and the parliament, and then open fire.
The reporter said that Sargsyan was hit several times.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott had met earlier in the day with the prime minister and other Armenian leaders to discuss Nagorno-Karabakh. He had been escorted to the airport by Sargsyan about a half hour before the incident at the parliament building.
Sargsyan appointed premier last June
Armenia became an independent republic following the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991 and has endured years of political turmoil.
Sargsyan is number two in the country's government. The 40-year-old former athletic instructor and Soviet propaganda official was appointed premier by Kocharian last June.
Sargsyan is an ally of Armenia's Soviet-era leader Demirchian, with whom he co-chairs the hard-line Unity party.
Sargsyan's political movement forced the resignation of President Levon Ter-Petrosian in February 1998. It accused him of pursuing "defeatist" policies on the issue of independence for the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh by agreeing even to discuss returning territory to Azerbaijan.
Sargsyan previously headed a nationalist group representing war veterans who fought in Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a major war over the enclave.
The premier's party was closely tied to a militia group known as the Yerkrapah Battalion, which Western human rights groups have accused of harassing religious organizations, especially those that discourage military service.
Strong turnout as Armenians choose president
Parliament of Armenia (Armenian)
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