Azerbaijan says Armenia targets cities outside conflict zone

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ArmGov PAN Photo

Shrapnel holes in a car as a building burns in the background after shelling by Azerbaijan's artillery during a military conflict in self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Stepanakert, Azerbaijan, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. The fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces has continued on Sunday over the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, with Azerbaijan's second largest city, Ganja, coming under attack. (Karo Sahakyan/ArmGov PAN Photo via AP)

BAKU – The fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces continued Sunday over the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, with Azerbaijan accusing Armenia of targeting the country's cities that are far beyond the conflict zone.

Hikmet Hajiyev, aide to Azerbaijani President Ilkham Aliyev, said Sunday that Armenia targeted large cities Ganja and Mingachevir with missile strikes. Ganja, home to several hundred thousand residents and the country's second-largest city, is located roughly 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) away from Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital, and so is Mingachevir.

The clashes erupted on Sept. 27 and have killed dozens, marking the biggest escalation in the decades-old conflict over the region, which lies within Azerbaijan but is controlled by local ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia.

Hajiyev on Sunday tweeted a video depicting damaged buildings, and called it the result of “Armenia’s massive missile attacks against dense residential areas” in Ganja. It wasn’t immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the video.

Hajiyev said in another tweet on Sunday evening that Armenian forces also hit Mingachevir, which “hosts a water reservoir and key electricity plant,” with a missile strike.

Armenia’s Defense Ministry vehemently denied the claims. The ministry's spokeswoman Shushan Stepanian wrote on Facebook that “no fire was opened from Armenia in the direction of Azerbaijan” and called the accusations “desperate convulsions of the Azerbaijani side.”

Nagorno-Karabakh’s leader, Arayik Harutyunyan, said on Facebook that he ordered “rocket attacks to neutralize military objects” in Ganja, but later told his forces to stop firing to avoid civilian casualties. His spokesman Vahram Poghosyan told Armenian media on Sunday evening there was no reason for Nagorno-Karabakh forces to target Mingachevir.

Azerbaijani officials denied that any military objects had been hit in Ganja, but said the attack caused damage to civilian infrastructure. One civilian has been killed, and 32 others sustained injuries, authorities said.