DEVELOPING STORYDEVELOPING STORY,
As tensions with Yerevan escalate, defence ministry says Armenian firing points, combat assets and military facilities are the targets.
Azerbaijan has launched what it called “anti-terrorist activities” in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, its defence ministry said, stressing that the offensive would only target military structures.
“Local anti-terrorist activities carried out by the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan are ongoing,” read a Ministry of Defense statement published on Tuesday.
“As part of the activities, only legitimate military installations and infrastructure are targeted and incapacitated using high-precision weapons,” it said, adding that it has created humanitarian corridors to allow the evacuation of civilians.
A reporter of the AFP news agency said explosions were heard in the region’s de facto capital, known as Stepanakert to Armenians and Khankendi in Azerbaijani.
Armenia said it had no military personnel or equipment in Karabakh, according to its defence ministry.
Meanwhile, Russia said to be “deeply alarmed by the sharp escalation” in the contested region, TASS media reported, citing foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova.
The statement announcing the offensive came a few hours after Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said at least six people died in two different accidents in the Azeri Khojavend district allegedly due to landmines installed by Armenia’s security forces.
The region has long been at the centre of tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia, leading to two wars for its control. As of today, the region is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but it is largely populated by ethnic Armenians.
The last large-scale conflict broke out in 2020 and lasted for six weeks before a Russian-brokered truce. The ceasefire saw Armenia cede swaths of territory it had controlled since the 1990s.
The two sides have since been unable to reach a lasting peace settlement despite mediation efforts by the European Union, Russia and the United States.
Armenia has accused Azerbaijan of causing a months-long humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh after Baku last year blocked the sole road linking the mountainous region with Armenia. It is called the Lachin corridor, and Russian peacekeepers police it.
On Monday, trucks loaded with humanitarian aid entered Nagorno-Karabakh after Armenian separatists and the central government agreed to use roads linking it to Armenia and Azerbaijan, according to Baku.
Al Jazeera’s Robin Forestier-Walker, who has extensively covered events at Nagorno-Karabakh, said there was a “great fear” that this could be another large-scale war between the two countries.
Noting that the region has been under blockade since December last year, Forestier-Walker said reports from inside the region spoke of “large-scale attacks in the form of potentially rocket attacks and shelling”, while the sound of small-arms fire could be heard in videos posted on social media.