Azerbaijan government officials claimed that at least four civilians were killed on Tuesday, October 27, in an alleged Armenian missile strike on the town of Barda, close to the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Ten other civilians were reported to have been injured when a projectile hit a residential building in the town on Tuesday afternoon. However, the Armenian defense ministry denied that any missiles had been fired towards Barda, either by its own forces or Nagorno-Karabakh separatist fighters.
The alleged incident came amid continuing clashes between Azeri and Armenian forces along the Nagorno-Karabakh line of contact on Tuesday, despite an earlier US-brokered ceasefire declaration in the disputed region. The most recent fighting was reported to have been concentrated in the Hocavend and Fuzuli areas, as well as the town of Gubadli, with Azeri forces claiming to have destroyed multiple armored vehicles and several air defense systems. Armenian sources also claimed that Azerbaijan had conducted an airstrike on a border guard post near the trijunction with Iran, although it was not immediately clear which position was hit.
Although both sides have stated that they support the latest ceasefire, which came into effect at 08:00 (local time) on Monday, October 26, fighting has continued along the line of contact with neither Azeri nor Armenian forces attempting to disengage. The ceasefire agreement is the third since hostilities in the Nagorno-Karabakh region erupted on September 27. The previous truces on October 10 and October 17 were both allegedly violated within hours.
Further clashes in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh region are highly likely over the near term. Clashes along the length of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border outside the Nagorno-Karabakh region cannot be ruled out. A heightened security presence and disruptions to transportation are expected.
The latest round of hostilities erupted on September 27, when Azerbaijani forces reportedly carried out strikes on settlements in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, including the regional capital Stepanakert. Following retaliatory attacks by separatist forces, Azerbaijan launched what it claimed to be a 'counter-offensive' in response. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan made extensive use of heavy weapons during the clashes, including artillery and loitering munitions, and released footage claiming to show the destruction of enemy armored vehicles and installations. A state of war, martial law, and mobilization were declared in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh. Over 1000 people, including civilians, have been killed since the renewed outbreak of hostilities. In addition to fighting along the Line of Contact, cities in Nagorno-Karabakh and outside of the conflict zone have been targeted in artillery strikes including Stepanakert, Ganja, Barda, Beylagan, Terter, and Mingecevir.
On October 10, both sides agreed to a ceasefire to allow for the exchange of prisoners and the recovery of the bodies of those killed in the conflict and the cessation of hostilities will be followed up with further talks aimed at reaching a settlement regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. Despite this, both sides have accused each other of violating the ceasefire. On Saturday, October 17, Azeri authorities stated that at least 12 people had been killed and 40 others wounded in rocket strikes which targeted the city of Ganja. Both sides later agreed to a second ceasefire following consultations with the Russian government.
Armenia and neighboring Azerbaijan have a long-standing dispute over the possession of Nagorno-Karabakh, home to some 150,000 inhabitants (mostly ethnic Armenians) and located in the west of Azerbaijan. This issue has fuelled tensions between the two countries since 1988; with some 30,000 people being killed in fighting from 1990 to 1994. The two countries declared another ceasefire in April 2016 after the region experienced four days of violent clashes that left hundreds dead.
Tensions between the two countries remain high and each side frequently accuses the other of violating the ceasefire agreement.
Western governments generally advise their citizens against all travel to Nagorno-Karabakh and the Azerbaijan-Armenia border. Those in Azerbaijan are advised to monitor developments and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.
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