Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian-backed military on Thursday claimed to have foiled two overnight commando raids on its frontline positions which it said were attempted by Azerbaijani forces.
In a statement, the Karabakh Defense Army said the Azerbaijani incursions were launched at two sections of “the line of contact” southeast of Karabakh. It said the attackers used hand grenades and other “offensive weapons” before being repelled by Karabakh Armenian troops.
“The Defense Army’s frontline detachments … inflicted losses on the enemy’s special forces and compelled them to retreat to their starting positions. The Defense Army suffered no casualties while confronting the enemy,” added the statement.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry was quick to dismiss these claims as “disinformation.” “There are no casualties among our personnel,” it said, according to the APA news agency. “By spreading such information the Armenians prepare ground for provocations planned by them.”
The Karabakh army reported on December 8 a similar incursion attempt which left one Armenian soldier dead. It claimed to have killed five Azerbaijani soldiers in that incident. The Azerbaijani side denied attacking Karabakh Armenian positions and suffering any casualties.
The Defense Ministry in Baku said later on December 8 that one Azerbaijani contract soldier died and another was seriously wounded when a military vehicle carrying them hit a landmine. The ministry reported another deadly traffic incident involving Azerbaijani military personnel ten days later. It said an Azerbaijani army captain and a warrant officer died as a result.
The Armenian military has long alleged that Baku attributes some of its combat death to such accidents in hopes of minimizing domestic popular anger. The commando units of both warring sides are believed to mainly comprise officers and contract soldiers.
The authorities in Stepanakert said on Thursday that the latest incident reported by them dealt another blow to international efforts to resolve the Karabakh conflict, which are spearheaded by the United States, Russia and France. Davit Babayan, a senior Karabakh Armenian official, said the Armenian side continues to support the mediators’ calls for the conflicting parties withdraw snipers from the frontlines and take other confidence-building measures.
“Despite the fact that the Armenian side’s responses and preemptive and defensive actions are becoming increasingly painful for the enemy, they apparently continue to stick to a political decision [to keep escalating tensions,] Artsrun Hovannisian, the Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Hovannisian said that 2014 was the “most tense year” in the conflict zone since a Russian-mediated ceasefire agreement stopped the war in Karabakh. He described as a “micro war” last August’s upsurge in deadly truce violations around the disputed territory.