Fierce fighting broke out around Nagorno-Karabakh early on Saturday after what the Armenian military described as “large-scale offensive operations” launched by the Azerbaijani army.
Karabakh’s Armenian-backed Defense Army said Azerbaijani forces backed by tanks, heavy artillery and helicopter gunships attacked its positions along the “line of contact” around the territory and shelled Karabakh villages and towns.
“Fierce clashes are taking place along the entire Line of Contact,” the army said in a statement, adding that its troops repelled the enemy at all sections of the frontline and caused it “considerable” losses. It said the shelling killed an 11-year-old Karabakh Armenian boy and wounded two other children.
Nagorno-Karabakh - A photograph of what Karabakh Armenian forces described as an Azerbaijani army drone shot down by them, 2Apr2016.
The Karabakh Armenian army also claimed to have destroyed three Azerbaijani tanks and shot down two Azerbaijani military helicopters and as many unmanned aircraft. It said heavy fighting continued as of early afternoon.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry likewise spoke of the most serious escalation of fighting in the Karabakh conflict zone since the 1994 truce that stopped a full-scale Armenian-Azerbaijani war. “The enemy has been repelled along the entire Line of Contact, suffering numerous casualties as a result,” it said in a statement.
The ministry calls called on the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group to urgently intervene and “maintain the situation under control.”
The ministry spokesman, Artsrun Hovannisian, said separately that the Armenian army “has gone on counteroffensive in some places.” “We have the initiative in the hostilities,” he wrote on Facebook. He gave no further details.
Azerbaijan essentially confirmed the escalation later in the morning but blamed the Armenian side for it. It said that Azerbaijani frontline troops and villages came under “intensive fire” overnight and that the Azerbaijani army had to take “urgent measures” in response. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said its troops are taking “coordinated retaliatory actions” against the Armenians but did not elaborate.