Missile strikes hit Azerbaijan cities after shelling of Armenia separatist capital





A missile strike levelled a row of homes in Azerbaijan's second city of Ganja Saturday, killing and badly injuring people in their sleep in a sharp escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The early hours attack, which saw a second missile strike another part of Ganja and a third reach the nearby strategic city of Mingecevir, came hours after Azerbaijani forces shelled the ethic Armenian separatist region's capital Stepanakert.

There was no early official information about the toll from any of the attacks but AFP reporters in Ganja saw a rescue team remove black bags containing body parts from the scene.

The spike in violence further undermines international efforts to calm a resurgence of fighting between Christian Armenians and Muslim Azerbaijanis before it draws in regional powers Russia and Turkey.

An AFP team in Ganja saw rows of houses turned to rubble by the strike, which shattered the walls and ripped the roofs off buildings in the surrounding streets.

People ran outside in shock and tears, stumbling through muddy alleys in their slippers, some wearing bathroom robes and pajamas.

One witness said he saw rescuers pull a small child, two women and four men from the debris in the minutes immediately after the strike.

"We were sleeping. The kids were watching TV," Rubaba Zhafarova, 65, said in front of her destroyed house.

"All the houses around here are destroyed. Many people are under the rubble. Some are dead, some are wounded."

The attack came only six days after a missile struck another residential part of the city of more than 300,000 people, killing 10 civilians.

Hikmat Hajiyev, an assistant to Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, tweeted that according to "initial information, more than 20 houses were destroyed" on Saturday.

- Passports, keys, bracelets -

Rescuers periodically called for silence so they could detect sounds of survivors as the hours passed, pulling out passports, keys, bracelets and items of clothing from the debris.

They called in sniffer dogs and watered down the suffocating columns of dust with hoses from a fire truck.

"One woman was missing her feet. Someone else was missing an arm at the elbow," said Elmir Shirinzaday, 26.

AFP later saw three more people carried away on stretchers, although it was not clear if they were dead or alive.

"My wife was there, my wife was there," one man cried inconsolably while being walked toward an ambulance by a paramedic.

At around the same time in the city of Mingecevir, an hour's drive north of Ganja, AFP heard the impact of a huge blast that shook buildings.

Mingecevir is protected by a missile defence system because it is home to a strategic dam, and it was not immediately clear if the missile was destroyed in the air or had made impact.

The defence ministry said Mingecevir had come "under fire", but provided no other immediate details.

An Azerbaijani official said that a second missile hit a separate, industrial district of Ganja at around the same time.

No immediate details about that second attack were known.

The decades-long Nagorno-Karabakh conflict re-erupted on September 27 in hotly disputed circumstances and has so far killed more than 700 people, including nearly 80 civilians.

The mountainous western region of Azerbaijan has remained under separatist ethnic Armenian control since a 1994 ceasefire ended a brutal war that killed 30,000.

But Armenia, which backs Nagorno-Karabakh but does not recognised its independence, has admitted that Azerbaijani forces have made important gains along the front in the past week.

AFP on Friday was taken by the Azerbaijani military to one settlement re-captured in the southern section of the conflict zone near the Iranian border.

Officials said they last controlled the settlement of Jabrayil, which includes strategic hights over looking a fertile valley, during the post-Soviet war.

The current escalation is the deadliest and longest since that six-year conflict.

The shelling of Stepanakert and the strikes on Ganja followed a joint call from Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday to "end the bloodshed as soon as possible."

zak/rma

COMMENTS

More Related News

Armenia, Azerbaijan agree anew to ceasefire: US
Armenia, Azerbaijan agree anew to ceasefire: US

Armenia and Azerbaijan have again agreed to respect a "humanitarian ceasefire" in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict effective Monday, the US State Department announced, after previous attempts to stem the bloodshed in the disputed region failed.

Clashes over separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh continue
Clashes over separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh continue
  • US
  • 2020-10-25 15:56:21Z

Fighting over the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region continued Sunday, as Armenia and Azerbaijan reiterated their commitment to a peaceful resolution of their decades-old conflict and blamed each other for hindering one after four weeks of hostilities. Nagorno-Karabakh's military accused Azerbaijani forces of shelling civilian settlements in the areas of Martuni and Askeran on Saturday evening and said that battles "on all directions of the frontline" took place on Sunday morning. Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry, in turn, alleged that Armenian forces shelled the Terter, Agdam and Aghjabedi regions of Azerbaijan.

Coronavirus thrives in Karabakh
Coronavirus thrives in Karabakh's bomb shelters

Close quarters, poor ventilation and no masks: in the cellars of Stepanakert, the capital of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh province, residents who have not fled fierce fighting may be safe from shelling, but not coronavirus.

US wades in cautiously to Armenia-Azerbaijan peace effort
US wades in cautiously to Armenia-Azerbaijan peace effort
  • World
  • 2020-10-23 15:07:46Z

The Trump administration waded cautiously into international efforts to halt fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which are engaged in their worst conflict in more than 25 years. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met separately on Friday in Washington with the foreign ministers of both countries in a bid to promote a cease-fire in hostilities over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. There was no immediate comment from any of the sides about the meetings, which followed failed Russian-led attempts to broker a truce and lower-profile U.S. intervention to promote an end to the fighting.

Nagorno-Karabakh fighting rages as US hosts talks
Nagorno-Karabakh fighting rages as US hosts talks
  • US
  • 2020-10-23 13:26:09Z

STEPANAKERT, Nagorno-Karabakh (AP) - Heavy fighting raged Friday over Nagorno-Karabakh even as top diplomats from Armenia and Azerbaijan traveled to Washington for negotiations on settling the neighboring countries' decades-long conflict. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's scheduled talks with Armenia and Azerbaijan's foreign ministers follow two failed Russian attempts to broker a cease-fire in the worst outbreak of hostilities over the region for more than a quarter-century. Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh said the town of Martakert and several villages in the Martuni region were struck by Azerbaijani rockets.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: Latin America