Azerbaijan, Armenia engage in fresh flareup

Tensions have flared in the South Caucasus, with Armenia accusing Azerbaijan of shelling Karabakh and Baku accusing Armenian-backed rebels of attacking Azeri military and civilian positions.

Karabakh is an Azerbaijani territory, but ethnic Azeris fled the territory in 1992 when Armenian separatists seized it in a move supported by Yerevan after the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Sunday the country has declared martial law and total military mobilization following clashes with Azerbaijan over the breakaway region.

The two sides have claimed civilian casualties in heavy fighting along the frontline. 

Armenia’s defense ministry said its troops had destroyed three tanks and shot down two helicopters and three unmanned aerial vehicles. 

“Our response will be proportionate, and the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan bears full responsibility for the situation,” the ministry said in a statement.

“We stay strong next to our army to protect our motherland from Azeri invasion,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote on Twitter.

Azerbaijan denied the Armenian defense ministry’s statement, saying it had “complete advantage over the enemy on the front.”

Hikmet Hajiyev, senior adviser to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, accused Armenian forces of launching “deliberate and targeted” attacks along the front line.

Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said Armenia had attacked civilian settlements and military positions along the “contact line,” a heavily-mined no-man’s-land that separates the Armenian-backed forces from Azeri troops in the region.

It said some civilians had been killed “as a result of the intensive shelling” by Armenia, and that Azerbaijan had taken retaliatory measures.

It said Azerbaijan’s army launched a “counter-offensive operation along the entire front to suppress the combat activity of the armed forces of Armenia and ensure the safety of the civilian population.”

A defense ministry spokesman later said troops had captured six of Azerbaijan’s Armenian-controlled villages.

“We have liberated six villages – five in Fizuli district and one in Jebrayil district,” the spokesman told AFP.

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