Riot police in Azerbaijan dispersed early on Wednesday thousands of people who rallied in Baku to demand war with Armenia following deadly clashes on the border between the two South Caucasus countries.
The demonstration began on Tuesday evening as a show of support for the Azerbaijani military, with participants reportedly chanting “Karabakh is Azerbaijan!” and “Mobilization!” But it appeared to have grown into an angry protest as the crowd reached Baku’s central Liberty Square.
News reports from the Azerbaijani capital said some protesters called for the resignation of General Najmaddin Sadikhov, the long-serving chief of general staff of the armed forces.
At one point late in the protest, a group of protesters broke into the nearby Azerbaijani parliament building but were quickly removed by police, who then used water cannons, tear gas, and batons to disperse those gathered in front.
The BBC cited the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry as saying afterwards that seven people were arrested for the "mass riots" and “resistance or use of force against a government official” which left seven police officers injured.
It was the largest demonstration in Azerbaijan in years. The protesters were angered by the deaths of at least 11 Azerbaijani servicemen, including an army general, in three days of heavy with Armenian forces which broke out at a western section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border on Sunday.
The Armenian army has reported four combat deaths within its ranks.
Military officials in Yerevan and Baku said on Wednesday morning that there was no fresh fighting at the border section overnight. The conflicting parties blame each other for the escalation that has prompted serious concern from the international community.
The border clashes came days after Azerbaijani President Aliyev raised the possibility of a new war with Armenia and denounced stalled peace talks on Nagorno-Karabakh. On July 7, Aliyev threatened to withdraw from negotiations “if they yield no results.”