Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian-backed military said on Thursday that its forces have captured Azerbaijani military personnel after neutralizing a commando raid from the Azerbaijani side of the frontline.
In a statement, the Karabakh Defense Army claimed that a special Azerbaijani army unit attempted to infiltrate the Armenian-controlled Kelbajar district sandwiched between Karabakh and Armenia. It said that “the enemy’s reconnaissance-sabotage group was detected on time” and that “some of its members were arrested while the others fled.”
“The Armenian side suffered no losses during the operation,” added the statement. It did not specify the number of Azerbaijani soldiers allegedly taken prisoner.
In another statement issued later in the day, the Karabakh Armenian army identified one of those soldiers as Shahbaz Guliyev. It also released photographs purportedly showing an assault rifle, hand grenades, ammunition and an Azerbaijani flag confiscated from him.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry denied the Karabakh Armenian claims, according to news agencies.
Reports about the alleged Azerbaijani incursion in Kelbajar first appeared in the Armenian media on Wednesday. Some media outlets spoke of one Azerbaijani man detained in the mountainous district that has been under Armenian control since 1993.
There were also suggestions that the reported incident might be connected with the disappearance earlier this week of a 17-year-old Karabakh Armenian man, Smbat Tsakanian. The authorities in Stepanakert did not rule out such a connection.
According to a spokesman for Karabakh President Bako Sahakian, the Karabakh military and police are now looking for Tsakanian as well as Azerbaijani “saboteurs” that might still be hiding in the area. “Our investigative efforts will show what happened,” the official, Davit Babayan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The Karabakh Armenians have repeatedly alleged this year failed Azerbaijani incursions at various sections of the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around the disputed territory. The Azerbaijani side has denied those claims, saying that the Armenians themselves have attacked its frontline positions on a number of occasions.