Fighting erupts between Armenia, Azerbaijan; 16 killed
Yerevan (Armenia): Fighting erupted anew Sunday between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the disputed separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh and a top territorial official said 16 people were killed and more than 100 wounded, while Azerbaijan's president said his military has suffered losses.
Armenia also claimed that two Azerbaijani helicopters were shot down and three Azerbaijani tanks were hit by artillery, but Azerbaijan's defense ministry rejected that claim.
Heavy fighting broke out in the morning in the region that lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since 1994 at the end of a separatist war. It was not immediately clear what sparked the fighting, the heaviest since clashes in July killed 16 people from both sides. Nagorno-Karabakh authorities reported that shelling hit the region's capital of Stepanakert and the towns of Martakert and Martuni. Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan also said Azerbaijani shelling hit within Armenian territory near the town of Vardenis.
Artur Sarkisian, deputy head of the Nagorno-Karabakh army, said that 16 people were killed and more than 100 wounded. It wasn't immediately clear if the figure included both soldiers and civilians. Earlier, the Armenian human rights ombudsman said a woman and child had been killed in the shelling.
Another Armenian Defense Ministry spokeswoman, Shushan Stepanyan, said the Armenian side shot down two helicopters and hit three tanks.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev ordered martial law be imposed in some regions of the country and called for a curfew in major cities.
In a televised address to the nation, Aliyev said that there are losses among the Azerbaijani forces and the civilian population as a result of the Armenian bombardment, but didn't give further details. He also claimed that many units of the enemy's military equipment have been destroyed. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is conducting intensive contacts in order to induce the parties to cease fire and start negotiations to stabilize the situation, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, called on the sides to stop fighting. The long-unsuccessful negotiations for resolving the territory's status has been conducted under OSCE auspices.
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