Azerbaijan says 21 dead in Armenia attack near Nagorno-Karabakh | Asia

Azerbaijan accuses Armenia of killing 21 people and injuring dozens in a missile strike near the disputed region.

Azerbaijan has accused Armenia of killing 21 people and injuring dozens in a missile attack near the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Armenia immediately denied carrying out the attack, the second in two days, on Wednesday that Azerbaijan says civilians were killed in Barda district near the frontline.

Yerevan also accused the Azerbaijani armed forces of deadly new strikes in civilian areas of Nagorno-Karabakh, as both sides claim the other targeted civilians after weeks of violent clashes.

Meanwhile, the Ria Novosti news agency reported that Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had confirmed the deployment of Russian border guards along the Armenian border with Nagorno-Karabakh.

“There’s nothing special about that,” said Pashinyan. “Russian border guards were on the Armenian border with Turkey and Iran … Due to the latest developments, the Russian border guards are now also on the southeastern and southwestern border of Armenia.”

Smerch missiles

The attacks on Wednesday took place despite a US-brokered truce agreed over the weekend. This was the third consecutive ceasefire attempt that collapsed just minutes after it came into force.

Azerbaijani aide Hikmet Hajiyev said Armenian forces fired Smerch rockets at Barda, accusing them of using cluster munitions “to inflict excessive casualties on civilians”.

The attorney general said the strike hit a densely populated area and shopping district, killing 21 civilians and injuring at least 70.

The Armenian Defense Ministry, meanwhile, confirmed that Azerbaijan captured the strategic city of Gubadli between the enclave and the Iranian border, an obvious military gain that could make a diplomatic solution difficult.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but is populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians. Around 30,000 people were killed in a war in the region between 1991 and 1994.

Azerbaijan rejects any solution whereby the Armenians would retain control of the enclave, which they believe is illegally occupied.

Armenia regards the area as part of its historical homeland and says that the people there need its protection.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Ministry of Defense has recorded 1,068 military deaths since fighting broke out on September 27.

Azerbaijan has not disclosed its military casualties. Russia has estimated a total of 5,000 deaths.