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Armenia, Azerbaijan clash over disputed region

Yerevan: Armenia has declared martial law and ordered its military to mobilize after a major flare-up in violence with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Heavy fighting between the two arch-foes broke out on September 27, as they blamed each other for the escalation that led to reports of casualties.

Armenia accused neighboring Azerbaijan of attacking civilian settlements in Nagorno-Karabakh – internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but controlled by Armenian forces – including the main city of Stepanakert. Armenia’s defense ministry said its forces downed two Azerbaijani helicopters and three drones in response to an attack it said began at 04:10 GMT.

But Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said it launched a “counteroffensive to suppress Armenia’s combat activity and ensure the safety of the population”, using tanks, artillery missiles, combat aviation and drones. The ministry said an Azerbaijani helicopter had been downed but its crew had survived.

In a statement on Facebook, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said “the government has decided to declare martial law and a total mobilization”, telling citizens to “get ready to defend our sacred homeland”.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, meanwhile, said in a televised address to the nation that “there are losses among the Azerbaijani forces and the civilian population as a result of the Armenian bombardment”.

In Nagorno-Karabakh, where officials also declared martial law and ordered citizens to mobilize, ombudsman Artak Beglaryan said “there are civilian casualties” among the population in the region. Separately, a spokesman for the Armenian defense ministry said an Armenian woman and child had been killed in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The worst fighting in years has raised the specter of a new large-scale war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, who have been locked for decades in a territorial dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijan and Armenia frequently accuse each other of attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the separate Azerbaijan-Armenia frontier.

Talks to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute have been largely stalled since the ceasefire agreement.

The Minsk Group, which includes France, Russia and the United States, has worked to mediate the dispute, but the last big push for a peace deal collapsed in 2010. (Al-Jazeera)

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