Hostage takers in Armenian capital demand release of political prisoners and opposition leader Jirair Sefilian.

Policemen block a street after group of armed men seized a police station along with an unknown number of hostages, according the country's security service, in Yerevan, Armenia, July 17, 2016.
Policemen block a street after group of armed men seized a police station along with an unknown number of hostages, according the country's security service, in Yerevan, Armenia, July 17, 2016.

A standoff is taking place in the Armenian capital Yerevan where men armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles have taken hostages at a police station.

Security forces surrounded the building with armoured vehicles after the police station was overrun by militants demanding the release of political prisoners, including Lebanese-born opposition leader and former military commander Jirair Sefilian.

Sefilian, who founded the "New Armenia Public Salvation Front," was jailed in June for the illegal possession of weapons.

He was also accused of planning to lead an uprising and seize buildings and communication facilities.

Jirair Sefilian at a protest against the Armenian Academy of Science's decision to officially support the 2009 Armenia-Turkey protocols.
Jirair Sefilian at a protest against the Armenian Academy of Science's decision to officially support the 2009 Armenia-Turkey protocols.

A staunch Armenian nationalist, Sefilian has long been a critic of President Serzh Sargsyan's policy on Azerbaijan's Karabakh enclave, which was occupied by Armenian forces in 1992.

His supporters have claimed that he was arrested because of plans to campaign against territorial concessions to Azerbaijan.

According to Armenian police sources, the armed group are currently holding seven or eight hostages. Two have been freed.

At least one policeman was killed in violent clashes with the hostage-takers, while another two were injured, the Armenian security service confirmed.

Policemen block a street after a group of armed men seized a police station along with an unknown number of hostages, according the country's security service, in Yerevan, Armenia, July 17, 2016.
Policemen block a street after a group of armed men seized a police station along with an unknown number of hostages, according the country's security service, in Yerevan, Armenia, July 17, 2016.

In a video message sent to Russian news portal lifenews.ru, the armed men, seen wearing bulletproof vests, said they had captured all the weapons in the police station and called on people to take to the streets.

"There is no other way. We appeal to you. Don't leave us here alone. We are doing our bit - you do your bit," one of the men said.

Armenians, however, have not heeded the call, as the streets of Yerevan remain calm.

One opposition faction, Flourishing Armenia, has already dismissed the call and denounced the violence.

Rumours had briefly spread on social media that other armed groups had taken control of state buildings across the capital, but the National Security Service quickly dismissed the assertions as "disinformation."

"The National Security Service officially announces that such information is absolutely untrue," it said in a statement.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies