Azeri forces continue shelling civilian areas; elderly residents brutally killed

By The Armenian Weekly | Monday, 04 April 2016

STEPANAKERT, NKR (A.W.)—Heavy fighting continued today along the Nagorno-Karabagh Repubilc (NKR/Artsakh) Line of Contact (LoC), with reports surfacing of Azerbaijani brutality against unarmed civilians. Despite an earlier statement today by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense announcing an end to the armed hostilities, the assault against Armenian positions and civilian areas continued. Meanwhile, the NKR Defense Ministry stated that it was ready to discuss a ceasefire “in the context of a return to the prior positions.”

The Azerbaijani Army has been shelling Armenian civilian settlements, particularly the town of Martakert, using BM-21 Grad multiple launch rocket systems, as well as 152 MM artillery, according to the NKR Defense Ministry.

The NKR Defense Ministry has not released a statement on the number of casualties. Some civilians, however, have reportedly been transported to the Stepanakert hospital. published the disturbing news of an elderly couple—Valera Khalapyan and his wife, Razmela—found shot in their homes with their ears cut off. Another resident, Marousya Khalapyan, born in 1924, was also killed.

Hetq photographer Hakob Poghosyan was documenting the aftermath of the April 2 Azerbaijani assault on the village of Talish, which was temporarily overrun with Azerbaijani soldiers, when he found the bodies of the elderly couple. The Khalapyans were among the few residents who were in Talish when the Azerbaijani soldiers entered the village.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry had announced earlier today that “In light of persistent calls from international organizations and given the fact that the government of Azerbaijan is pursuing a peaceful policy, the Azerbaijani armed forces took a unilateral decision to stop counter-attacks and retaliatory action against the enemy in the occupied territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan.” Stepanakert called the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry’s announcement of a unilateral ceasefire “a piece of misinformation.”

In another communique, the NKR Defense Ministry said that the situation “remains tense,” with “rather fierce battles underway along the northeast and southeast directions of the frontline.”

According to the NKR Defense Ministry, today’s fighting has led to a number of Azerbaijani casualties and military equipment losses, particularly near Talish. Enumerating Azerbaijani losses, the Defense Ministry held that “Overall, the Azerbaijani army lost 14 tanks and 5 other units of other armor yesterday and today, including an IFV [Infantry Fighting Vehicle]. The Nagorno-Karabagh Army lost one tank.”

Early in the day, the NKR Defense Army undertook counter measuresand was able to regain a “tactically important stronghold” near Talish, which had earlier been overtaken by the Azerbaijani Army. During that operation, two NKR soldiers were wounded, according to the Defense Ministry. Starting at 6 a.m., there was also fighting on the southern part of the frontline, where Azerbaijani forces continued to use artillery and rocket attacks against the Armenian side. The NKR Defense Ministry noted that its army had carried out “successful operations” on the southern frontline.

In its latest communique, the NKR Defense Ministry held that Baku is covering up the real number of its casualties. “According to official Baku, 21 is equal to 12. It is clear that in order to cover up its losses, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry is using a simple solution by changing the order of the numbers, presenting its losses from a single battle as 12 instead of 21,” read the statement, which referred to the fighting near the village of Seysulan. The NRK Defense Ministry linked to aerial footage of the area, marking what it said were the bodies of Azeri fighters.

Meanwhile, various news outlets have reported on the scores of volunteers from Karabagh and Armenia heading to enlist for service.

NKR Prime Minister Arayik Harutyunyan met with hundreds of volunteers in Stepanakert’s Cultural and Youth Center on the evening of April 2. “I am happy that in such a short time, this many people have signed up as volunteers in this sacred mission,” he said. “If it is necessary, we will all go to protect the borders of our homeland. At this phase, I urge you to avoid succumbing to panic, and to keep the military spirit of the public high,” Harutyunyan was quoted as saying on the NKR government’s official Facebook page.