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Friday, October 29, 1999 Published at 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK

World: Europe

Armenia killers' family connection

Troops remain on the streets of Armenia's capital

Three of the gunmen who stormed Armenia's parliament building and assassinated the prime minister, were from the same familiy, a presidential spokesman has said.

They are reported to be the leader of the attack, Nairi Hounanian, his brother and an uncle - although there is no official confirmation of this.

President Robert Kocharyan, who has taken over the duties of prime minister, has ruled out a wider conspiracy.

The BBC's Andrew Harding: "A peaceful end to a shocking ordeal"
His spokesman, Vage Gabrielian, called the assault on parliament a "freak accident".

Mr Gabrielian said the attackers hid their dismantled weapons under their coats as they entered parliament on Wednesday, but added that there were no security systems at the building to detect guns.

The gunmen killed eight leading Armenian politicians, including Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian.

Their funerals will take place on Sunday and a new prime minister is expected to be appointed about one week later.

Until then, President Kocharyan will act as prime minister.

Resignation offer

Interior Minister Suren Abramyan has offered his resignation because of the security failings that allowed the attack to be carried out.

[ image: The small, former-Soviet republic is shocked by the killings]
The small, former-Soviet republic is shocked by the killings
President Kocharyan has so far refused to accept the resignation offer.

But a defence ministry statement broadcast on national television has blamed Mr Abramyan, the national security minister and the prosecutor-general and for the lack of security around parliament.

Mr Abramyan has been quoted as saying that his resignation offer was a response to the shootings - not a reaction to pressure from the military.

Armenian politicians have been holding talks with President Kocharyan to discuss the future of the both the government and the country following Wednesday's attack.

The BBC's correspondent in Armenia, James Rodgers, says the main task now for the authorities is to calm any fears of further violence and instability.

Security still tight

Troops remain on the streets of the capital, Yerevan, and soldiers backed up by armed personnel carriers man check points along the main routes into the city.

[ image: Gunmen released their captives on Thursday morning]
Gunmen released their captives on Thursday morning
The four gunmen, who also took 40 MPs hostage following the assassinations, have been charged with terrorist offences.

They are being interrogated by the Armenian State Security Service, which is trying to determine their motive and whether they had accomplices.

The gunmen surrendered early on Thursday, handing over their weapons and releasing their hostages.

The MPs left the parliament building stunned but safe after President Kocharyan negotiated a deal with the leader of the gunmen.

The president went on television to say he was ready to guarantee the gunmen a fair trial, and that no violence would be used against them if they released the hostages unharmed.

In a recorded statement broadcast shortly before their surrender, the gunmen accused the government of pursuing disastrous political and economic policies, which they said had ruined Armenia.

Armenian separatists fought a war with Azerbaijan over the disputed enclave of Nagorno Karabakh before a ceasefire in 1994, and the two countries have recently held talks to end the dispute.

Armenia became an independent republic after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and has since endured years of political instability.

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