Azerbaijan said on Tuesday that six of its citizens had been killed by land mines in two separate incidents in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and blamed “illegal Armenian armed groups” for laying the deadly mines.
Karabakh, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, has an overwhelmingly ethnic Armenian population and broke from Baku’s control in the early 1990s after a war. Azerbaijan recaptured swathes of land in and around it in a 2020 war.
Baku said four interior ministry staff had been killed when their truck was blown up by a mine near a tunnel construction site. Another mine had killed two civilians, also in a truck, it said.
There was no immediate response from the ethnic Armenian authorities in Karabakh whom Azerbaijan wants to disband to allow it to re-integrate the territory. Armenia said on Monday that accusations that its own armed forces had placed mines on Azerbaijani territory were false.
The incidents undermine efforts to reduce tensions
The landmine incidents occurred a day after badly needed food and medicine was delivered to Karabakh along two roads simultaneously, a step that looked like it could help ease mounting tension between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
A land mine in Afghanistan. (credit: FLICKR)
Ties remain severely strained, however.
Azerbaijan’s defense ministry on Tuesday accused “illegal Armenian armed groups” of jamming the GPS navigation of a passenger jet flying from Tbilisi in Georgia to Baku.
Ethnic Armenians in Karabakh called the allegation “an absolute lie” designed to distract attention from what they called “the humanitarian catastrophe caused by the illegal blockade” of Karabakh by Baku.
That was a reference to months of Azerbaijani restrictions on the Lachin corridor – the only road linking Armenia with Karabakh – which had until the last few days not allowed in aid on the grounds that the route was purportedly being used for arms smuggling.
Armenia’s foreign ministry said on Monday that Azerbaijan’s diplomatic stance looked like it was preparing the ground for a military escalation.
Both sides say they remain committed to settling their differences via a peace deal.