Armenia, Azerbaijan blame each other for hitting civilian areas

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Hundreds of people have died in the outbreak of war over Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave that belongs to Azerbaijan but is populated by ethnic Armenians.

YEREVAN — Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other on Monday of attacking civilian areas on a ninth day of fighting, the deadliest in the South Caucasus region for more than 25 years.

Hundreds of people have been killed in the latest outbreak of war over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountain enclave that belongs to Azerbaijan under international law but is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.

Nagorno-Karabakh said Azeri forces launched rocket strikes on its capital Stepanakert, while Azerbaijan said Armenia fired missiles at several towns outside the breakaway region.

“The enemy is firing rockets at Stepanakert and Shushi. The Defence Army response will not be long in coming,” said Vahram Pogosyan, a spokesman for the Nagorno-Karabakh leader.

“Tense fights are in progress,” said Armenian defense ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan.

Azerbaijan said that Armenia had been launching missile attacks against densely populated areas and civilian infrastructure in Azerbaijan, including the cities of Mingachevir and Terter. The Azeri defense ministry said its radar system recorded that launches were made from the territory of Armenia.

The Azeri defense ministry reported that people had been wounded. There were no reports of the attack from the Armenian side.

“Mingachevir hosts water reservoir and key electricity plant. Barbaric expression of desperation,” Azeri presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev said on Twitter.

Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh denied Azeri claims that Armenian armed forces launched a missile attack.

“It is fake and complete misinformation that Armenia opened fire on Azeri strongholds,” said Artrsun Hovhannisyan, an Armenian defense ministry official.

Men look at the damage in a residential area after shelling by Azerbaijan’s artillery during a military conflict in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh, on Sunday.David Ghahramanyan/NKR InfoCenter / AP
The clashes are the worst since the 1990s, when some 30,000 people were killed, and are spreading beyond the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. They have raised international concern about stability in the South Caucasus, where pipelines carry Azeri oil and gas to world markets.

The conflict threatens to drag in other regional powers as Azerbaijan is supported by Turkey, while Armenia has a defense pact with Russia.