Azerbaijan on Tuesday said it had launched “anti-terrorist operations” in Nagorno-Karabakh, raising fears of a renewed full-scale war with Armenia over the disputed region.
Baku’s defence ministry said it was using “high-precision weapons” to target Armenian forces in the mountainous region.
The defence ministry said it was only targeting legitimate military targets and not civilians or civilian infrastructure as part of what it called a drive to “restore the constitutional order of the Republic of Azerbaijan”.
Residents of Nagorno-Karabakh shared videos of air raid sirens in the area wailing as heavy weapons fired in the background.
Ruben Vardanyan, a former Armenian minister for the region, on Tuesday said Stepanokert had been shelled. He accused Azerbaijan of “targeting cities and civilians on a large scale”.
‘Policy of terror’
“The international community bears responsibility for the events unfolding in Nagorno-Karabakh,” he said, referring to warnings that Armenian officials have made about the fragile peace in the region.
Baku’s operation began after six of its citizens had been killed by landmines in two separate incidents which it blamed on “illegal Armenian armed groups”.
“Such incidents are testimony to the ongoing deliberate and planned policy of terror by Armenia against Azerbaijan,” it said.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous area roughly the size of Somerset, since the break-up of the Soviet Union.
At least 7,000 people were killed in a five-week war there in 2020 before Russia negotiated a ceasefire.
With the Kremlin distracted by the war in Ukraine, analysts fear that Azerbaijan not only wants to restore control of the territory it seized in 2020, but to drive ethnic Armenians from the area.
Late last week, Armenian officials warned that Baku was preparing its forces for an assault after Azerbaijani military vehicles were spotted with markings similar to ones used by the Russian army prior to the invasion of Ukraine.
Azerbaijan earlier this year imposed a de-facto blockade on the predominantly ethnic Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh, leading to an acute shortage of food and medicine.