At least 13 people are said to have been killed in a missile strike on the second-largest city in Azerbaijan, as the conflict with Armenia continues.
Azerbaijani officials said Armenia was responsible for the deaths and the wounding of 50 others in Ganja, in an escalation of their conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Armenia’s defence ministry denied launching the strike and separatist authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh stopped short of claiming responsibility, but alleged they were “legitimate” military facilities.
Azerbaijani officials said about 20 residential buildings were damaged or destroyed by a Soviet-made Scud missile, and emergency workers spent hours searching in the rubble.
Scud missiles date back to the 1960s and carry a large warhead of explosives, but are known for their lack of precision.
Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, said the missile strike was a war crime and warned Armenia it would face responsibility for it, having already condemned another apparent strike on Ganja this month.
“Azerbaijan will give its response and it will do so exclusively on the battlefield,” Mr Aliyev said.
While authorities in both Azerbaijan and Armenia have denied targeting civilians, residential areas have increasingly come under attack during a conflict thought to have killed upwards of 600 people as of earlier this week.
Stepanakert – the regional capital of Nagorno-Karabakh – was shelled overnight, with three civilians wounded, according to separatist authorities.
Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan, but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994.
Mr Aliyev announced that Azerbaijani forces had captured the town of Fizuli and seven other villages, gaining a “strategic edge”.
Fizuli is one of the seven Azerbaijani areas outside Nagorno-Karabakh seized by Armenian forces in the early 1990s.
Armenia and Azerbaijan were both within the Soviet Union until its break-up at the start of the 1990s, and both have remained on friendly terms with Russia.
More than 10 hours of talks brokered by Russia ended with a ceasefire, but the agreement immediately failed, with both sides blaming each other.
Turkish support for the Azerbaijani military has given it an edge on the battlefield, helping them outgun the Armenian forces that rely mostly on outdated Soviet-era weapons.
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