At least two Azerbaijani soldiers have been killed in renewed fighting with Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh, it emerged on Wednesday.
The deadly clash reportedly occurred on Tuesday in a northern section of the main Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” that recently saw the worst ceasefire violation in the Karabakh conflict zone in over two years.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said an Armenian “sabotage group” attacked its troops stationed in the area late in the afternoon and was pushed back by them. A ministry statement cited by Azerbaijani media said two Azerbaijani and three Armenian soldiers died in the firefight.
Military officials in Armenia and Karabakh blamed the Azerbaijani army for the incident and insisted that there were no fatalities among Karabakh Armenian forces. “The opposite happened. As always, they are spreading false reports,” Armenia’s Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian told journalists in Yerevan on Wednesday.
“Azerbaijan has again shown its face,” said Ohanian. “After meeting with a worthy response from our frontline troops, [Azerbaijani troops] fled the battlefield and suffered casualties.”
Karabakh’s Defense Army, meanwhile, claimed that Azerbaijani forces suffered seven casualties in a failed “sabotage attack” on its positions in the disputed territory’s northern Martakert district. The army spokesman, Senor Hasratian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the incident occurred early in the morning.
According to Hasratian, only one Karabakh Armenian soldier, identified as Rudik Manaserian, was wounded in the skirmish. Doctors at a military hospital in the Karabakh capital Stepanakert told RFE/RL on Wednesday that the 19-year-old conscript has undergone surgery and is now in a “satisfactory” condition.
The same section of the frontline was already the scene of deadly fighting between the warring sides as recently as on June 18-19. It left one Azerbaijani and four Armenian troops dead and raised more fears of another Armenian-Azerbaijani war.
Each party blamed the other for that firefight, which was took place the day after the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Saint Petersburg for fresh talks hosted by their Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev. The Armenian side accused Baku of deliberately provoking the incident to torpedo the peace process spearheaded by the United States, Russia and France.
It pointed to the fact that the Azerbaijani soldier, Mubariz Ibrahimov, was shot dead in Armenian-controlled territory. His body has still not been handed over to the Azerbaijani side.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev bestowed the posthumous title of “national hero” on Ibrahimov in late July. Aliyev also ordered his government to name a school and a street after the dead soldier.