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ASIO Caught Suspect in Sarik Ariyak Killing on Tape.

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

"Another One Bites The Dust."

ASIO wiretaps, available for public viewing at National Archives, unveil how the agency put an Armenian-Australian woman to the top of their suspect list for the killing of Sarik Ariyak and Engin Sever.

The two young Armenian Revolutionary Federation members were celebrating the latest killing of another innocent Turkish person during their phone call, not knowing that the call was tapped by ASIO agents.

"Unprocessed intercept from EW 680 revealed the following, obtained from a conversation between Nina Alexanian and Silva (Probably Silva Donelian)" reads the document headlined Secret | PP HQS | Syd 6051 | SE: 82/7/649 dated 13 September 1982.

The two were talking about the terrorist killing of Bora Suelkan in Bulgaria on 9 September 1982.

Nina Alexanian had been recruited to ARF ranks by Levon Demirian, who was later convicted for the terrorist bombing of the Turkish consulate general in Melbourne. Demirian, a chief suspect of the Ariyak killing as well, left Australia for a "four month holiday" in August 1981, only to return in 1985 with his new family from Lebanon. Among the large party welcomed Demirian at the Sydney airport was Silva Donelian.

Silva and her twin sister Seta were among the main suspects in ASIO's eyes, due to their extreme views and ARF membership.

According to a cabinet memo in 1983, following the border force's seizure of weapons in Krikor Keverian's possession on his return from Los Angeles, Silva had had a number of conversations about Demirian's then-cancelled return to Australia in July 1983. ASIO suspects Demirian's return had been cancelled due to the seizure of weapons, which Border Force labelled as "bad luck".

Documents reveal that Silva did come under the radar as a main suspect for a reason.

During the wiretapped call between Alexanian and Donelian, after celebrating each other for Suelkan's killing, "Nina said 'Let them do it. As long as they do not get caught.' She added," according to ASIO "if they go free like you."

ASIO's assessment of the call was that both women appeared to be privy to the existence of the JCAG cell in Australia, and "Nina's comment certainly implies that Silva had 'escaped' capture, most probably for her part in some terrorist act, maybe the assassination of the Turkish Consul-General, Sarik Ariyak."

Silva Donelian back then was engaged to Harout Tufenkjian, who has his own record on ASIO documents, describing him as the case agent's "number one suspect" for involvement with Armenian terrorism. "He is very fanatical and is ready to kill if the big man says so," notes the ASIO agent, and adds "My opinion of him is probably biased."

At 1:12 AM on 23 November, Tufenkjian arranged a meeting with Kegham Sarkissian, suspected leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation in Australia, using a "codeword", according to records. An hour later the bomb went off prematurely, in the carpark of the building where Turkish consulate general also had used as its premises. Tufenkjian's meeting with Sarkissian was assessed to be related to this bombing. According to ASIO, the modus operandi of JCAG cells included full secrecy from the ARF head cadres in the country they were planning to carry out their terror attacks. A JCAG operative would only inform the ARF leaders in that country in the very last minute, about the attack to take place.

It was believed to be Harout's then fiancé, Silva, who uttered the famous lyrics of Queen song to Nina during that intercepted phone call, describing the killing of Suelkan: "Another One Bit the Dust, Today".

At the time of his death, Suelkan, 45, was married and had two young children.

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