Azerbaijan’s second largest city has been attacked by missiles from Armenia as the conflict ramps up, an aide to the Azerbaijani president claimed.
The development marks a sharp escalation in the war that broke out a week ago in the South Caucasus despite calls from Russia, the US, France and the EU to call a ceasefire.
Until now, the main fighting had been between Azerbaijan and the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan that is also known as Artsakh.
Image: This building in Ganja had its windows blown out by the shelling
That now threatens to spill over into a direct war between the two nations.
Nearly 200 servicemen from Nagorno-Karabakh have died so far, according to officials, while Azerbaijani officials said 22 of its civilians have been killed and 74 injured.
Hikmet Hajiyev, an aide to Azerbaijan’s president, tweeted a video on Sunday showing damaged buildings, saying it was the result of “Armenia’s massive missile attacks against dense residential areas” in Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second-largest city which is not in Nagorno-Karabakh.
He said attacks on Ganja and Beylagan, which borders Nagorno-Karabakh, were launched “from territory of Armenia”.
More from Armenia
Armenia’s defence ministry denied the attack, saying “no fire of any kind is being opened from the territory of Armenia in Azerbaijan’s direction”.
However, Nagorno-Karabakh’s leader, Arayik Harutyunyan, said on Facebook he ordered “rocket attacks to neutralise military objects” in Ganja but later stopped firing to avoid civilian casualties.
His spokesman, Vahram Poghosyan, said the region’s army destroyed a military airport in Ganja – a claim Azerbaijani officials denied.
Image: This family’s home in Garagoyunlu, Azerbaijan, was also damaged
Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry tweeted that the attack killed one civilian and left four others wounded.
The conflict threatens to drag in other regional powers because Azerbaijan is supported by Turkey, while Armenia has a defence pact with Russia.
Turkey’s foreign minister said: “The attacks of Armenia targeting the civilians in Ganja… are a new manifestation of Armenia’s unlawful attitude. We condemn these attacks.”
Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, tweeted that his forces had captured the town of Jabrail and several villages.
Armenian defence ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan dismissed the claim as “yet another fabrication” – but independent verification was not possible.
Image: A large plume of smoke was seen rising from Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh
Azerbaijan has previously accused Armenia of firing into its territory from the city of Vardenis, 50 miles (80k) away from Nagorno-Karabakh, but Armenia has denied it.
On Saturday, Azerbaijan said its forces had captured a string of villages.
The conflict is the worst since the 1990s when about 30,000 people were killed.
There is international concern about stability in the South Caucasus as pipelines carry Azeri oil and gas to world markets.
Source : Sky News