More Deadly Fighting Reported In Karabakh


11 March 08

BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) – Azerbaijani and ethnic Armenian forces
exchanged more gunfire near the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh
over the weekend, killing two civilians and at least two soldiers,
officials in Baku said Monday.

There has been an alarming spike in shootings that Azerbaijani
officials say has killed seven soldiers and civilians this month
alone. The violence has raised new fears that full-scale fighting
could break out again between both sides.

Armenian officials confirmed the weekend shooting, but denied there
were fatalities on either side.

Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman Eldar Sabiroglu said two
Azerbaijani civilians were killed and two wounded in the shooting
overnight Saturday in the Agdam region.

On Sunday, meanwhile, more small-arms fire broke out in another
adjacent region, killing one Azerbaijani soldier and injuring
another. An Armenian soldier was killed also, Sabiroglu said.

A Nagorno-Karabakh military spokesman, Lt. Col. Senor Hasratian,
denied there were fatalities, either civilian or military during
the weekend skirmishes. "As long as you don’t consider the regular
violations of the cease-fire from the Azerbaijani side, then one could
say that the situation along the line of control are fully normal,"
he told The Associated Press.

In Yerevan, meanwhile, the skirmishes prompted comment from President
Robert Kocharian, who told reporters that two ethnic Armenian
officers were wounded when Azerbaijani forces attacked an outpost on
Nagorno-Karabakh’s outskirts.

"It’s been a long time since artillery was used on the front line,"
he said.

He said mediators from the Organization for Security and Cooperation
in Europe later worked to persuade both sides to halt their gunfire.

Ali Hasanov, a top official with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev’s
administration, accused Armenia of sparking the violence, and he linked
it to the continuing unrest in Armenia that broke out following the
Feb. 19 presidential election.

Police violently cracked down on days of protests by supporters
of opposition candidate Levon Ter-Petrosian, who claimed the vote
was flawed.

Officials say the man Kocharian endorsed – Prime Minister Serge
Sarkisian – won.

"The Armenian leadership has resorted to such provocations to distract
attention of Armenians and the international community from the
internal situation in the country," Hasanov alleged. He said five
Azerbaijani soldiers and two civilians have been killed this month
alone in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, and several civilians and
soldiers injured.

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