Nagorno-Karabakh offensive claims 200, injures 400

Operation under anti-terrorism commenced against Armenia, around 3 years after both countries faced each other over Nagorno-Karabakh

By Web Desk
September 21, 2023
Thick plumes of black smoke could be seen rising over the valley in Nagorno-Karabakh as a lasting solution to the decades-long conflict remains elusive.— AFP/File

As many as 200 people have lost their lives with more than 400 wounded asAzerbaijan launched its military offensive in a disputed region ofNagorno-Karabakh Tuesday, according to separatist leaderGegham Stepanyan said Wednesday as the area remained the bone of contention for decades betweenCaucasus foes.

The military operation under the name of anti-terrorism commenced Tuesday against Armenia, around three years after both countries faced each other over the mountainous area.

The decision of action was taken months after the tensions between the two reached a crescendo hours after Baku said six Azerbaijanis were killed by mine explosions in Karabakh, blaming Armenian separatists.

"There are at least 200 killed and more than 400 wounded," the Karabakh region's rights ombudsman said on social media.

"At least 10 civilians were among the dead, five of them children," Stepanyan added.

Azerbaijan has not given details of its casualties but President Ilham Aliyev said Wednesday evening that some of its soldiers had been killed and others were wounded.

"Localised anti-terrorist measures have been launched in the region," Baku's defence ministry earlier said, adding it was using "high precision weapons on the front line and in-depth as part of the operations."

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a decades-long conflict over Karabakh, going to war in the 1990s and in 2020.

The breakaway region populated mainly by Armenians is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.

Baku has cited "systemic shelling" of Azerbaijani positions by Armenian separatists in Karabakh as well as "the continuing mining of our territories" and accused Yerevan of a troop build-up.

It said it had "repeatedly warned" of what it called violations of a Russian-brokered ceasefire that ended a 2020 war between the neighbours, calling them "a serious source of threat for peace and stability in the region."

Baku said it wanted to "suppress large-scale provocations" in Karabakh. Its aims also included the "disarmament and withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from our territories" and "the safety of the civilian population" returning to territories it reclaimed in 2020.

Hours earlier, Baku said four policemen and two civilians were killed in mine explosions staged by "Armenian separatist groups."

Blasts were heard Tuesday in the Armenian separatist stronghold of Stepanakert in the breakaway region, according to AFP.

"Mass shelling has started here," Ruen Vardanyan, a former state minister of Karabakh wrote on Telegram.

Baku said it had informed Russia and Turkey about military activities it was carrying out in Karabakh.

In a six-week war in 2020, Azerbaijan regained control of pockets of Karabakh with fighting ending with a Russian-brokered peace deal.

A separatist official in Nagorno-Karabakh said earlier Wednesday there were hundreds of casualties after a day-long military operation by Azerbaijan in the breakaway region.