It could be the worst civilian death toll in a month of fighting in the secessionist region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan accused Armenia on Wednesday (October 28th) of having killed twenty-one people and wounding several dozen others in missile fire targeting Barda, a region near Nagorno-Karabakh.
A journalist from Agence France-Presse in Barda saw shops and buildings destroyed, the ground strewn with debris, while residents gathered around to see the damage. Several charred cars were visible nearby, as well as a pool of blood.
Yerevan immediately denied having carried out the attack – the second in two days – which killed civilians in the Barda region, accusing Azerbaijani forces on the contrary of having bombed inhabited areas in Nagorno-Karabakh.
These two attacks and these mutual accusations come two days after the failure of a ceasefire signed under the aegis of the United States and supposed to be effective Monday – but broken as soon as it takes effect.
Hikmet Hajiyev, adviser to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev, on Wednesday accused Armenian forces of firing “Smertch” rockets at Barda and of using cluster munitions to “Inflicting excessive injuries among civilians”.
According to the Azerbaijani Attorney General’s office, the strike targeted a shopping and populated area, killing twenty-one civilians and injuring at least seventy. On Tuesday, Baku had already accused Armenia of being responsible for the deaths of four civilians – including a two-year-old girl – in gunfire in the Barda region. A fifth civilian died of his injuries Wednesday, according to the prosecutor.
These losses of civilians are the worst recorded on the Azerbaijani side since October 17 and the deaths of thirteen people in bombings on Gandja, the country’s second city.
President Ilham Aliev has sworn to “Avenge” this attack by “Reprisals on the battlefield”. He also assured on Twitter that his army had captured thirteen villages so far controlled by the Armenian forces.
Armenian Defense Ministry spokeswoman Chouchane Stepanian immediately denounced accusations “False and unfounded”. The day before, Yerevan had also denied the “Lies” from Baku.
Armenia, on the other hand, assures us that Azerbaijani forces bombed the towns of Martuni and Shushi in Nagorno-Karabakh, killing one civilian and injuring two others.
Both sides reported continuing fighting in several areas of this mountainous Caucasus region. Both have claimed to control the situation.
Baku seizes the ECHR
Since September 27 and the resumption of fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijani forces have reconquered territories that had escaped their control since the 1990s and the previous conflict (which already opposed them to Armenia). This war had at the time made 30,000 dead and resulted in the secession of the region, now populated almost 100% of Armenians.
Yerevan-backed Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence after the war in 1994, but the war was not recognized by the international community – or even Armenia.
On Monday, Armenian authorities admitted losing control of the strategic town of Goubadly in southern Nagorno-Karabakh as Azerbaijani forces approach dangerously close to a vital road connecting Armenia and the secessionist region.
According to partial reports, nearly 1,120 people – including around 100 civilians – have been killed since the resumption of hostilities. Russian President Vladimir Poutine, whose country traditionally acts as arbiter in the region, told him of a death toll of around 5,000.
The international community has so far proved incapable of negotiating a lasting truce, let alone a peaceful end to the conflict, with Azerbaijan and Armenia largely unyielding.
Three attempts at a ceasefire between Baku and Yerevan, successively negotiated in Moscow, Paris and Washington, were shattered as soon as they entered into force, the two camps rejecting each other’s responsibility for these failures.
Azerbaijan also seized – on Wednesday – the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to request “Provisional measures” against Armenia and summon the country to put an end to its bombardments on civilian areas – according to the ECHR.
This request is made on the basis of Article 39 of the ECHR Rules, which allows the judicial body to take emergency measures when there is an imminent risk of irreparable damage.
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