Azerbaijani Sniper Kills Armenian Soldier near Disputed Region


An Azerbaijani sniper shot dead an Armenian soldier, the latest casualty in violence along the breakaway Nagorny Karabakh region's volatile frontline, rebel officials said Monday.

"A Karabakh army serviceman was mortally wounded on Sunday evening by an Azerbaijani sharpshooter," the separatist defense ministry said in a statement.

The death comes after several months of unprecedented violence along the line dividing the warring sides and takes the number of people reported killed on both sides this year to 23.

Yerevan and Baku have been locked in a dispute over Azerbaijan's Nagorny Karabakh region since a bloody war in the early 1990.

Threatening a shaky 1994 truce, clashes between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces across the arch-foes' border and along the Karabakh frontline intensified last year.

Yerevan-backed ethnic Armenian separatists seized control of Karabakh and another seven adjacent districts of Azerbaijan during the conflict that left some 30,000 dead.

Despite years of negotiations, the two sides have not signed a final peace deal, and Armenian-populated Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.

Karabakh's ethnic-Azeri community -- around a quarter of the population before the war -- was entirely driven out.

Baku, whose military spending exceeds Armenia's entire state budget, has threatened to take back the territories by force if negotiations fail to yield results.

Armenia, backed militarily by Russia, says it could crush any offensive.

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