YEREVAN – Fighting over the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh entered a sixth week Sunday with Armenian and Azerbaijani forces blaming each other for new attacks.
Nagorno-Karabakh officials accused Azerabaijan of targeting the towns of Martuni and Martakert with military aviation and firing missiles at the town of Shushi. Explosions were also heard in Stepanakert, the region's capital, officials said.
Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry rejected the accusations of targeting civilian settlements and accused Armenian forces of firing at the positions of the Azerbaijani army on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. The ministry also said Armenian forces shelled settlements in the regions of Terter and Aghjabedi of Azerbaijan.
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. The latest outburst of hostilities began Sept. 27 and has left hundreds — if not thousands — dead, marking the worst escalation of the decades-old conflict between the two ex-Soviet nations in over quarter century.
According to Nagorno-Karabakh officials, 1,166 of their troops and 45 civilians have been killed. Azerbaijani authorities haven’t disclosed their military losses, but say the fighting has killed at least 91 civilians and wounded 400. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said, according to Moscow’s information, the actual death toll was significantly higher, nearing 5,000.
Over 130,000 residents have been displaced since the fighting flared up, the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF reported Wednesday.
Roman Aloverdyan, a 46-year-old cattle owner, said he left his home in the Nagorno-Karabakh village of Karmir Shuka when his family got evacuated. He took scores of his sheep with him and headed toward Armenia on foot.
“What do I feel? We are leaving our home... Of course, it hurts. I have no words,” said Aloverdyan, who has been on the road for about a week and has at least half a week more of walking ahead of him.