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Azerbaijan says foe targeted cities

Armenia rejects claim as fighting in disputed territory persists by AIDA SULTANOVA THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | October 5, 2020 at 4:21 a.m.
People remove debris from destroyed buildings Sunday in a residential area in Ganja, Azerbaijan, after shelling by Armenian forces. More photos at arkansasonline.com/105armenia/. (AP/DHA)

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

Hikmet Hajiyev, aide to Azerbaijani President Ilkham Aliyev, said Armenia targeted Ganja and Mingachevir with missile strikes. Ganja, home to several hundred thousand people and the country's second-largest city, is roughly 60 miles away from Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh's capital, and so is Mingachevir.

The clashes broke out Sept. 27 and have killed dozens of people, 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.

This week's fighting has prompted calls for a cease-fire from around the world, including Russia, France and the United States.

Hajiyev 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 that attacks on Ganja and other areas in Azerbaijan were launched "from territory of Armenia."

[Video not showing up above? Click here to view » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkKglnNBitk]

Armenia's Defense Ministry said that "no fire of any kind is being opened from the territory of Armenia in Azerbaijan's direction." 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.

Azerbaijani officials denied that any military objects had been hit, but said the attack caused damage to civilian infrastructure. One civilian was killed and 32 suffered injuries, authorities said.

"Opening fire on the territory of Azerbaijan from the territory of Armenia is clearly provocative and expands the zone of hostilities," Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov said in a statement.

As the fighting resumed Sunday morning, Armenian officials accused Azerbaijan of carrying out strikes on Stepanakert and targeting the civilian population there. Nagorno-Karabakh's leader Harutyunyan said that in response, his forces would target "military facilities permanently located in major cities of Azerbaijan."

[Gallery not loading above? Click here for more photos » arkansasonline.com/105armenia/]

In a statement issued later Sunday, Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry rejected accusations of targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Aliyev's aide Hajiyev tweeted Sunday evening that Armenian forces also hit Mingachevir, which "hosts a water reservoir and key electricity plant," with a missile strike. He didn't say whether there was damage to the reservoir or the plant.

Nagorno-Karabakh officials have said nearly 200 servicemen on their side have died in the clashes so far. Eighteen civilians have been killed and more than 90 wounded. Azerbaijani authorities haven't given details on their military casualties, but said 24 civilians have been killed and 111 wounded.

Aliyev, the Azerbaijani president, tweeted Sunday that the country's troops "liberated from occupation the city of Jabrayil and several surrounding villages." Nagorno-Karabakh's officials rejected the claim as untrue, saying the territory's army "is controlling the situation in all directions."

Nagorno-Karabakh was a designated autonomous region within Azerbaijan during the Soviet era. It claimed independence from Azerbaijan in 1991, about three months before the Soviet Union's collapse. A full-scale war that broke out in 1992 killed an estimated 30,000 people.

​​​​​Information for this article was contributed by Daria Litvinova, Aven Demourian and Zeynep Bilginsoy of The Associated Press.

Demonstrators, holding Turkish and Azerbaijani flags, chant slogans during a protest supporting Azerbaijan, in Istanbul, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Armenian and Azerbaijani forces continue their fighting over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, following the reigniting of a decades-old conflict. Turkey, which strongly backs Azerbaijan, has condemned an attack on Azerbaijan's second largest city Gence and said the attack was proof of Armenia's disregard for law. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Demonstrators, holding Turkish and Azerbaijani flags, chant slogans during a protest supporting Azerbaijan, in Istanbul, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Armenian and Azerbaijani forces continue their fighting over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, following the reigniting of a decades-old conflict. Turkey, which strongly backs Azerbaijan, has condemned an attack on Azerbaijan's second largest city Gence and said the attack was proof of Armenia's disregard for law. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
In this image taken from a video released by Armenian Defense Ministry on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, Armenian artillery attack Azerbaijan's troops at the contact line of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan. The fighting, which broke out on Sept. 27 and has continued for eight straight days, is the biggest escalation in years in the decades-long dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh. The region lies within Azerbaijan, but is controlled by local ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia. (Armenian Defense Ministry via AP)
In this image taken from a video released by Armenian Defense Ministry on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, Armenian artillery attack Azerbaijan's troops at the contact line of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan. The fighting, which broke out on Sept. 27 and has continued for eight straight days, is the biggest escalation in years in the decades-long dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh. The region lies within Azerbaijan, but is controlled by local ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia. (Armenian Defense Ministry via AP)
Demonstrators hold Azerbaijan flags during a protest supporting Azerbaijan, in Istanbul, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Armenian and Azerbaijani forces continue their fighting over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, following the reigniting of a decades-old conflict. Turkey, which strongly backs Azerbaijan, has condemned an attack on Azerbaijan's second largest city Gence and said the attack was proof of Armenia's disregard for law. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Demonstrators hold Azerbaijan flags during a protest supporting Azerbaijan, in Istanbul, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Armenian and Azerbaijani forces continue their fighting over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, following the reigniting of a decades-old conflict. Turkey, which strongly backs Azerbaijan, has condemned an attack on Azerbaijan's second largest city Gence and said the attack was proof of Armenia's disregard for law. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
In this image taken from a video released by Armenian Defense Ministry on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, Armenian forces destroy Azerbaijani armored vehicles at the contact line of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan. Fighting that started Sept. 27 is some of the the worst to afflict Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas since the end in 1994 of a war that left the region in Azerbaijan under the control of local ethnic Armenian forces. (Armenian Defense Ministry via AP)
In this image taken from a video released by Armenian Defense Ministry on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, Armenian forces destroy Azerbaijani armored vehicles at the contact line of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan. Fighting that started Sept. 27 is some of the the worst to afflict Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas since the end in 1994 of a war that left the region in Azerbaijan under the control of local ethnic Armenian forces. (Armenian Defense Ministry via AP)
In this handout photo taken from video released by Armenian Foreign Ministry on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, a woman cries near her shop, partly destroyed by Azerbaijan's artillery shelling in Stepanakert, the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan. As the fighting resumed Sunday morning, Armenian officials accused Azerbaijan of carrying out strikes on Stepanakert and targeting the civilian population there. (Armenian Foreign Ministry via AP)
In this handout photo taken from video released by Armenian Foreign Ministry on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, a woman cries near her shop, partly destroyed by Azerbaijan's artillery shelling in Stepanakert, the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan. As the fighting resumed Sunday morning, Armenian officials accused Azerbaijan of carrying out strikes on Stepanakert and targeting the civilian population there. (Armenian Foreign Ministry via AP)
Demonstrators holding Azerbaijan flags chant slogans during a protest supporting Azerbaijan, in Istanbul, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Armenian and Azerbaijani forces continue their fighting over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, following the reigniting of a decades-old conflict. Turkey, which strongly backs Azerbaijan, has condemned an attack on Azerbaijan's second largest city Gence and said the attack was proof of Armenia's disregard for law. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Demonstrators holding Azerbaijan flags chant slogans during a protest supporting Azerbaijan, in Istanbul, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Armenian and Azerbaijani forces continue their fighting over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, following the reigniting of a decades-old conflict. Turkey, which strongly backs Azerbaijan, has condemned an attack on Azerbaijan's second largest city Gence and said the attack was proof of Armenia's disregard for law. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Demonstrators holding Azerbaijan flags chant slogans during a protest supporting Azerbaijan, in Istanbul, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Armenian and Azerbaijani forces continue their fighting over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, following the reigniting of a decades-old conflict. Turkey, which strongly backs Azerbaijan, has condemned an attack on Azerbaijan's second largest city Gence and said the attack was proof of Armenia's disregard for law. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Demonstrators holding Azerbaijan flags chant slogans during a protest supporting Azerbaijan, in Istanbul, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Armenian and Azerbaijani forces continue their fighting over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, following the reigniting of a decades-old conflict. Turkey, which strongly backs Azerbaijan, has condemned an attack on Azerbaijan's second largest city Gence and said the attack was proof of Armenia's disregard for law. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
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)
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)
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