Deadly fighting breaks out between Azerbaijani, Armenian separatist forces in Nagorny-Karabakh

Deadly fighting breaks out between Azerbaijani, Armenian separatist forces in Nagorny-Karabakh
Fighting has broken out in Azerbaijan’s breakaway region of Nagorny-Karabakh, which is controlled by Armenian separatists, and both sides say civilians have been killed.
2 min read
27 September, 2020
Azerbaijan forces conducted military exercises near Karabakh before fighting broke out [Azerbaijan Defence Ministry]

Separatist forces in Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorny-Karabakh on Sunday shot down two Azerbaijani military helicopters after Baku began bombing the enclave, rebel authorities said.

The worst clashes since 2016 have raised the spectre of a fresh large-scale war between arch-foes Azerbaijan and Armenia, which have been locked for decades in a territorial dispute over Nagorny Karabakh.

Azerbaijan accused the rebels of starting hostilities and the fighting has claimed civilian casualties on both sides.

Read more: Armenia and Azerbaijan - a decades-long and volatile rivalry

"There are reports of dead and wounded among civilians and military servicemen," the Azerbaijani presidency said, while Karabakh's ombudsman said "there are civilian casualties" among the region's population.

In an emergency parliament session in Karabakh’s capital Stepanakert, separatist president Araik Harutyunyan declared martial law and “total military mobilisation” for all those liable for military service and over the age of 18.

On Sunday morning, Azerbaijan started "active bombing" along Karabakh's frontline and of civilian targets, including in the region's main city Stepanakert, Karabakh's presidency said. The rebel defence ministry claimed its troops shot down two Azerbaijani helicopters and three drones.

Azerbaijan's defence ministry said it launched a "counter offensive to suppress Armenia's combat activity and ensure the safety of the population."

"Let us stand firmly behind our state, our army... and we will win. Long live the glorious Armenian army!" Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote on Facebook.

Ethnic Armenian separatists seized Karabakh from Baku in a 1990s war that claimed 30,000 lives.

Talks to resolve the Karabakh dispute - one of the worst conflicts to emerge from the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union - have been largely stalled since a 1994 ceasefire agreement.

France, Russia and the United States have mediated peace efforts as the "Minsk Group" but the last big push for a peace deal collapsed in 2010.

Energy-rich Azerbaijan has invested heavily in its military and repeatedly vowed to retake Karabakh by force.

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