Several dead in missile strikes on Azerbaijani cities

World Saturday 17/October/2020 14:34 PM
By: DW
Several dead in missile strikes on Azerbaijani cities

An Armenian missile strike leveled several residential homes in Azerbaijan's second city of Ganja on Saturday, Azeri officials said, in the latest escalation in the conflict over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Prosecutor General's office said two shells hit apartment buildings, killing 12 civilians and wounding more than 40 others. 

The missile struck around 3 a.m. local time on Saturday (2100 UTC/GMT Friday). A second missile hit another part of Ganja and a third reached the strategically-placed city of Mingecevir nearby. 

A news agency cited a witness as saying he saw rescuers pull a small child, two women and four men from the debris in the minutes immediately after the Ganja strike. 

"One woman was missing her feet. Someone else was missing an arm at the elbow," another witness said. 

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev described the nighttime attack as a war crime and said his army would "take revenge on the battlefield." He promised to capture Karabakh by driving out Armenian forces "like dogs." 

Karabakh capital sees fresh shelling 

Saturday's attacks came hours after Azerbaijani forces shelled Stepanakert, the capital of the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia and Azerbaijan each accused the other of launching strikes on each other in the battle for Karabakh, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.

The fresh fighting defied hopes of ending the nearly three-week conflict over the enclave, which the two former Soviet Republics have been squabbling over for decades.

A Russian-brokered ceasefire agreed last Saturday to allow the sides to swap detainees and the bodies of those killed now appears to have broken down.

Richard Giragosian, a foreign policy analyst at the Regional Studies Center think-tank in Armenia's capital Yerevan, told DW that Azerbaijan appears unwilling to return to diplomacy.

"There is little deterrent in terms of their [Azerbaijan's] advance and unfortunately, they're ignoring calls for a ceasefire. Armenia has an offer of no pre-conditions, an immediate halt to hostilities ... and unfortunately, it [the conflict] is spiraling dangerously out of control."

Meanwhile, a humanitarian disaster looms after more than half of the 150,000 population of the disputed region fled their homes.