Military authorities in Stepanakert have reported a successful completion of a special operation aimed at neutralizing a group of saboteurs that allegedly infiltrated into an Armenian-controlled district near Nagorno-Karabakh last week.
In a statement released on Monday the Defense Ministry of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic said all members of the group had either been ‘neutralized’ or ‘destroyed’ by special units of the Defense Army in the Kelbajar district sandwiched between Armenia and Karabakh.
It did not provide details as to the number of those apprehended or killed in the operation.
Earlier, the Karabakh Armenian military said one of the Azerbaijani commandoes attacked a vehicle in Kelbajar, killing 42-year-old major Sarkis Abrahamian and wounding the wife of another serviceman, 37-year-old Karine Davtian. The attacker was killed by Armenian forces later on Friday, the report said.
At the same time, an ethnic Armenian reportedly went missing in Kelbajar the previous week. The parents of 17-year-old Smbat Tsakanian said they believed their son had been kidnapped by Azerbaijani ‘saboteurs’. Officials in Stepanakert did not rule out a connection between the teenager’s disappearance and the alleged Azerbaijani infiltration.
Last Thursday, the Karabakh Defense Ministry posted on its website two photographs of a man whom it identified as 46-year-old Shahbaz Guliyev, a citizen of Azerbaijan. It said the captive was one of the arrested members of the Azerbaijani commando and also posted photographs of an assault rifle, a pistol, hand grenades, ammunition and an Azerbaijani flag that allegedly belonged to him.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry insisted on Friday that Guliyev is a civilian, rather than a member of an alleged commando unit. At the same time, Azerbaijani media cited Guliyev’s brother living in the village of Terter as saying that the captive is a truck driver who “has often visited Kelbajar in the past.”
Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry of Armenia issued a statement on Monday, saying that the captured ‘saboteurs’ would not be given the status of prisoners-of-war, but would rather be prosecuted in accordance with the Armenian penal code.
“The members of the neutralized sabotage group did not have any marks of distinction and had grossly violated the laws and customs of war that are defined by international law, committing cruel and inhuman acts of infringement upon civilians,” the Armenian military emphasized, adding that, if necessary, evidence can be provided to relevant international agencies.