Azerbaijan today vowed to avenge the deaths of 13 civilians in a nightly bombing of a residential area in Ganyá, the country’s second largest city, an attack that marks an escalation in the conflict between Azerbaijanis and Armenian separatists in Nagorno Karabakh.
A few hours before that bombing, Azerbaijani attacks were registered against the capital of the separatist territory, Stepanakert, according to the AFP news agency in the city, abandoned by most of its inhabitants since the start of the clashes, on September 27.
The attack in Ganyá this morning was followed by a second bombardment in another part of the city, in addition to a shot at the strategic town of Mingachevir, some 80 kilometers north of the first.
The increase in violence highlights the inability of the international community to calm the situation in Nagorno Karabakh, a separatist enclave mired in conflict that also involves regional powers such as Russia and Turkey.
This territory, populated mostly by Christian Armenians, separated from Azerbaijan, a Turkish-speaking Shiite Muslim country, shortly before the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, leading to a war that left 30,000 dead in the 1990s.
Since 1994, a ceasefire has been in place, often interrupted by clashes and confrontations.
In Ganyá, several houses were destroyed by a missile, which fell at dawn and which, according to the attorney general, killed 13 civilians and injured 45 others.
Neighbors fled the scene, some in pajamas and slippers.
“We were sleeping. The children were watching TV,” said Rubaba Zhafarova, 65, in front of her destroyed house. “All the surrounding houses were destroyed. Many people are under the rubble. Some are dead, others injured,” he said.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev assured that he will “avenge” the civilians killed in the attack.
“This cowardly crime will not break the will of our people. We will respond on the battlefield, we will take revenge on the battlefield,” he said, promising that they will “hunt like dogs” their Armenian separatist enemies.
Ganyá, a city of more than 300,000 inhabitants, had already been bombed on Sunday by a missile that caused 10 deaths.
On the other hand, in the city of Mingachevir, located about 80 kilometers north of Ganyá, a powerful explosion was heard that shook the buildings around the same time.
Mingachevir is protected by an anti-missile system as it houses a strategic dam. It is not known so far if the missiles were destroyed in flight or if they reached the city.
The Armenian separatists did not comment on the attack on Ganya, claiming instead that, as Azerbaijan targeted civilian infrastructure in the cities of Stepanakert and Chucha, “operations were carried out to stop the adversary.”
At the front, fighting continued, and Azerbaijan and Armenia accused each other of violating the ceasefire and targeting civilians.
The Azerbaijani army announced that it advanced north and south of the front line, destroying military equipment, weapons and leaving “many dead”.
Azerbaijan achieved territorial conquests in the last three weeks although it did not obtain any decisive triumphs.
The international community fears that the conflict will internationalize as Turkey supports Azerbaijan while Armenia, which financially supports the separatists, is part of a military alliance with Russia. (Télam)