Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev vowed on Saturday to strike back against Armenia after shelling on his country’s second largest city Ganja left at least 12 civilians dead and dozens injured.
Aliyev said Azerbaijan’s army would retaliate against Armenia and “take revenge on the battlefield”, in televised remarks hours after the shelling on a residential area in Ganja flattened rows of houses.
The missile strike marks a sharp escalation of the conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The early hours attack, which saw a second missile strike another part of Ganja and a third reach the nearby strategic city of Mingecevir, came hours after Azerbaijani forces shelled the ethnic Armenian separatist region’s capital Stepanakert.
Azerbaijan and Armenia accused each other on Saturday of fresh attacks in violation of a week-old Russian-brokered truce that has failed to halt the worst fighting in the South Caucasus since the 1990s.
Baku said 13 civilians were killed and more than 50 wounded in the city of Ganja by an Armenian missile attack, while Yerevan accused Azerbaijan of continued shelling.
The fighting is the worst in the region since Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces went to war in the 1990s over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountain territory that is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
The Azeri Prosecutor General’s office said a residential area in Ganja, the country’s second-largest city and miles away from Nagorno-Karabakh, was shelled by missile strikes and around 20 apartment buildings had been hit. Armenia denied the claim.