Despite a ceasefire in the conflict-ridden Nagorno-Karabakh region, authorities in Azerbaijan claimed on Saturday that 12 civilians were killed and 40 others injured after an Armenian missile struck the country’s second largest city of Ganja.
“The ballistic missiles have been fired from the territory of Armenia,” said Hikmat Hajiyev, assistant to the Azerbaijani President, adding that Ganja is located far from the conflict zone.
Emergency crews are still searching through the rubble as more people are feared trapped.
Azerbaijan’s prosecutor general and minister of emergencies were at the scene.
Artsrun Hovhannisyan, spokesman for the Armenian Defence Ministry, has denied the attack and accused Azerbaijan of continuing to shell some areas inside Nagorno-Karabakh, including Stepanakert, the major city of the mountainous region.
“At dawn, Azerbaijani forces once again violated the humanitarian ceasefire by resuming shelling in the direction of peaceful settlements,” said Hovhannisyan on Twitter.
On October 11, Azerbaijan, which is openly backed by Turkey, had accused Armenia of violating the ceasefire by attacking Ganja and resulting in heavy civilian casualties.
The Armenian Defence Ministry had also denied that allegation, saying it was false information.
The ceasefire was enforced in the region on October 11 following trilateral negotiations between Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia that lasted for over two hours in Moscow.
Renewed clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia erupted on September 27, with intense battles raging in Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but mostly governed by the Republic of Artsakh, a de facto independent state with an Armenian ethnic majority.
The area experienced flare-ups of violence in the summer of 2014, April 2016 and this July.
Azerbaijan and Armenia have imposed martial law and launched mobilization efforts.
In the latest conflict, Nagorno-Karabakh authorities have confirmed that 201 of their personnel and a number of civilians have died.
Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war over the region in 1988-94, eventually declaring a ceasefire. However, a settlement was never reached.
The current fighting is the worst seen since the ceasefire and the two former Soviet republics have been blaming each other.