Saturday, September 23, 2023 | Rabi' al-awwal 7, 1445 H
scattered clouds
30°C / 30°C

Blasts in Karabakh as Azerbaijan launches military operation

No Image

BAKU: Azerbaijan on Tuesday launched a military operation in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region and demanded the total withdrawal of Armenian forces from the disputed mountainous territory as a precondition for peace.

Fears of a fresh war have been building in recent months, with Armenia accusing Azerbaijan of a troop build-up and decrying a blockade of its only land link to Nagorno-Karabakh.

Blasts could be heard in the town as Azerbaijan said it was using "high precision weapons on the front line and in depth".

"Localised anti-terrorist measures have been launched in the region," Baku's defence ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said it had opened "humanitarian corridors and reception points" to allow civilians to leave.

"We reiterate that the civilian population and civilian infrastructure are not targets," the statement said.

The latest escalation comes nearly three years after a brief but brutal war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the mountainous region.

Armenia's foreign ministry condemned Azerbaijani "aggression" against Karabakh.

"On September 19, Azerbaijan unleashed another large-scale aggression against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, aiming to complete its policy of ethnic cleansing," the foreign ministry said.

It said Russian peacekeepers stationed in the region should "take clear and unequivocal steps to stop Azerbaijan's aggression".

A separatist organisation based in Armenia said on social media that "Stepanakert and other cities and villages are under intensive fire," accusing Azerbaijan of launching a "large-scale military offensive."

Azerbaijan justified the mission, citing "systematic" shelling by Armenian-backed forces and accusing them of carrying out "reconnaissance activities" and fortifying defensive positions.

"There is also the strengthening of combat positions with personnel, armoured vehicles, artillery and other weapons," Azerbaijan said, accusing separatists of "a high level of combat readiness".

Regional power brokers Russia and Turkiye, which oversee a fragile peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh, had been informed about Azerbaijan's military activities in Karabakh, Baku said.

Moscow urged the parties to the conflict to respect a peace accord and end the "bloodshed".

The fighting came just hours after Azerbaijan said four police officers and two civilians were killed in mine blasts in Nagorno-Karabakh, with authorities blaming separatists.

The deaths at dawn came after Armenian separatists said they had reached an agreement with Azerbaijani authorities to resume aid deliveries to Karabakh.

Baku's security services said two civilians had died in the district of Khojavend and four police officers were killed in another mine explosion en route to the site. — AFP

arrow up
home icon