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Azerbaijan: 9 dead, 34 injured in Armenian shelling

Azerbaijan: 9 dead, 34 injured in Armenian shelling
Azerbaijan rescuers on Sunday carry the body of a local resident allegedly killed by overnight shelling in Ganja, Azerbaijan. Photo by Aziz Karimov/EPA-EFE

Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Less than 24 hours after a cease-fire agreement went into force, Azerbaijan said Armenia shelled its second-largest city overnight, killing at least nine civilians and injuring 34 others.

In a statement on Sunday, Azerbaijan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Armenia shelled its second-largest city of Ganja, accusing it of deliberately attacking civilians and medical workers "as part of its aggressive policy against Azerbaijan."

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"The shelling of civilians and cities by the Armenian armed forces after the humanitarian cease-fire agreement is another clear example of barbarism and shows that the cease-fire calls on the Armenian leadership are nothing but hypocrisy," the ministry said.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev called the shelling "a war crime and a gross violation of the Geneva Conventions."

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"It is a disrespect to the negotiations under Russia's mediation and another embodiment of Armenian fascism," he said in a tweet. "These heinous actions can never break the will of the Azerbaijani people!"

Turkey, a close Azerbaijani alley, on Sunday condemned the attack, while calling on the international community to "stop this lawlessness."

Azerbaijan's Ministry of Defense on Sunday accused Armenia's armed forces of also shelling the city of Mingachevir and villages in the regions of Goranboy, Aghdam, Terter, Agjabedi, Fizuli and Jabrayil.

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"The political and military leadership of Armenia bears the responsibility for the aggravation of the situation in the region," the Ministry of Defense said in a statement.

The shelling occurred less than a day after the two sides agreed to a Russia-mediated cease-fire to stop fighting over control of the Nagorno-Karabakh territory, which is administered by ethnic Armenians but is located within Azerbaijan. Its control has been a source of disagreement between the two nations since the Soviet Union dissolved in the early 1990s.

Within hours of the cease-fire taking effect at noon on Saturday, each side accused the other of breaching it.

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Josep Borrell, the high representative of the EU, voiced worry in a statement Sunday over the accusations, urging both sides and "external parties" to adhere to the agreement.

"We note with extreme concern the reports of continued military activities, including against civilian targets, as well as civilian casualties and urge the sides to ensure full respect of the agreement on the ground," Borrell said. "The EU calls upon the sides to engage in substantive negotiations without delay."

The two countries have been involved in fighting since Sept. 27, with Armenia calling for the Nagorno-Karabakh territory to be recognized internationally as an independent state but Azerbaijan accuses it of wanting to seize more land.

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