Nagorno-Karabakh declares martial law as fresh violence erupts

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Nagorno-Karabakh declares martial law as fresh violence erupts

Fighting has erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan around the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Both sides have blamed each other; the Armenian Defense Ministry said two Azerbaijani helicopters were shot down.

  

Armenia’s Defense Ministry said its military shot down two Azerbaijan military helicopters after an Azerbaijani bombing campaign against civilian targets. It added that three of its adversary’s tanks had also been hit.

“The entire responsibility for this lies with the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan,” insisted an Armenian Defense Ministry spokesperson.

Azerbaijan, meanwhile, accused Armenian forces of launching  “deliberate and targeted” attacks on Nagorno-Karabakh.

“There are reports of dead and wounded among civilians and military servicemen,” Azerbaijan’s president said.

Read more: Azerbaijan police detain opposition protesters

Martial law announced

Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh said the city of Stepanakert has been shelled and urged residents to get to safety. Numerous houses in villages have been destroyed, with injuries reported.

The breakaway region immediately declared “martial law and total military mobilization,” Karabakh’s president Araik Harutyunyan told an emergency parliament session. He said that those liable for military service had been called up for duty.

The new clashes represent the first major outbreak of violence since 2016 between the two neighbors over Azerbaijan’s breakaway, mainly ethnic Armenian region in the southern Caucasus.

A tank belonging to the self-defence army of Nagorno-Karabakh (picture-alliance/dpa/K. Minasyan)

Armenia and Azerbaijan on Sunday accused each other of reigniting their decadeslong conflict in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh after fresh violence erupted in the breakaway region.

The two sides have been involved in a dispute since the fall of the Soviet Union and had engaged in border conflicts earlier this year.

Read more: Angela Merkel in Azerbaijan calls for peace with Armenia

Tensions heightened

Violence first erupted in the region when ethnic Armenians seized Karabakh from Azerbaijan in the 1990s. 30,000 people were killed during the war.

A ceasefire, that was signed in 1994, largely put an end to the full-scale conflict, however, peace talks mediated by France, Russia and the United States collapsed in 2010.

Azerbaijan has made repeated threats to take back the region by force. Although the region declared independence, it is heavily reliant on Armenian support and Armenia has stated that it would defend the territory militarily.

ab/mm (AFP, Reuters)

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