YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–At 5:15 p.m. Wednesday–five gunmen entered Armenia’s parliament and shot prime minister Vazgen Sargsyan–National Assembly Speaker Karen Demirchian–Deputy Assembly speaker Yuri Bashkhian and several others while taking control of the building.
The three leaders were all reported to be seriously wounded.
The prime minister was shot as he addressed the assembly in a speech broadcast live by radio to the nation. The gunmen are still in the building and have reportedly blocked the building’s exits.
Reports from Armenia indicate that both Sargsyan and Demirchian were rushed to the hospital–while eight people were confirmed dead. Conflicting reports also hint that Sargsyan did not survive the attack–but government sources have not confirmed the report.
Sources in Armenia reported that the gunmen–led by journalist Nairi Hounanian–entered the National Assembly building from an entrance reserved for journalists and got passed security by presenting their press credentials.
Hounanian was reportedly accompanied by his brother–Karen and his uncle Vram. Hounian the identity of the other assailants is unknown.
Several members of parliament have also been taken hostage in what the assailants called a coup attempt. Among the hostages are Armenian Revolutionary Federation bloc members Aghvan Vartanian and Rouben Hakopian.
Eyewitnesses say that one of the assailants cried out–"You don’t know yet what we are saving you from," while allowing the journalists gathered at the national assembly to leave.
At 6:30 p.m. President Robert Kocharian was seen entering the National Assembly building–which was sealed off by law enforcement agencies. The Haylur news agency reported that the president was personally overseeing the effort to end the crisis.
Hounanian has been engaged in business dealings in Turkey. At height of Armenia’s crisis from the early to late 1990’s Hounanian was often out of Armenia and involved in so-called business dealings.