Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry insisted on Friday that an Azerbaijani man detained by authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh is a civilian, rather than a member of a commando unit that allegedly infiltrated an Armenian-controlled district.
The Karabakh Armenian military reported the arrest of Shahbaz Guliyev in a statement issued on Thursday. It said the 46-year-old was a member of an Azerbaijan “reconnaissance and sabotage group” that was neutralized by its forces in the Kelbajar district sandwiched between Armenia and Karabakh.
The statement claimed that “some of its members were arrested while the others fled.” Only one of them, Guliyev, has been identified and exposed so far. Karabakh’s Defense Army posted on its website photographs of the man as well as an assault rifle, pistol, hand grenades and an Azerbaijani flag which it said were confiscated from him. It also said that “the captured soldier” was born in a village in Azerbaijan’s Terter district bordering northeastern Karabakh.
“Shahbaz Jalaloglu Guliyev, a resident of the Terter district taken hostage in the Kelbajar district, does not serve in the armed forces of Azerbaijan,” the Defense Ministry in Baku said, according to the Regnum news agency.
Meanwhile, haqqin.az reported that correspondents for Azerbaijan’s ANS television visited Guliyev’s village in Terter on Friday. The TV channel cited Guliyev’s brother living there as saying that the captive is a truck driver who “has often visited Kelbajar in the past.”
The announcement of Guliyev’s capture coincided with an official confirmation that a 17-year-old ethnic Armenian resident of Kelbajar, Smbat Tsakanian, went missing a week ago. Officials in Stepanakert did not rule out a connection between his disappearance and the alleged Azerbaijani infiltration.
Tsakanian’s father Mekhak told the “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily that the young man was alone in their house near Nor Erkej village when he and other family members left it on July 4. He said they did not find him here when they returned home the following morning.
“I am 100 percent sure that Azerbaijani saboteurs kidnapped my son,” said Mekhak Tsakanian. “They broke into our house and stole food and other stuff.”
“Not only our villagers but also people from nearby villages are trying to locate him,” the Nor Erkej mayor, Ara Hovannisian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Nobody knows what happened,” he said when asked about possible reasons for the disappearance.