Azerbaijani Shelling Kills 3 in Karabakh City, Armenia Says


Three civilians were killed as Azerbaijani forces shelled the main city of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region on Friday, Armenia said, following weeks of fighting over the mountainous province.

Defence ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan published photos showing rescue workers in camouflage and orange helmets removing rubble from a building in Stepanakert whose walls were collapsed and roof was caved in.

"The rocket hit a residential house, killing 3 civilians," Stepanyan said.

For weeks Armenian separatists in Karabakh have been fighting Azerbaijan's forces, which are working to wrest control of the region that claimed independence following a war in the 1990s.

The most recent flare-up in the fighting that erupted late September has killed more than 1,000 people, including civilians, but the real human cost of the conflict is believed to be much higher.

Stepanyan said earlier that Azerbaijan was also shelling the town of Shusha, a strategic settlement and home to an iconic Armenian cathedral that was damaged in shelling last month with several journalists injured.

The fighting has persisted despite attempts by France, Russia and the United States to broker a lasting ceasefire that would allow the two sides to return to the negotiating table.

Those three countries make up the Minsk group of mediators which helped broker a truce between the ex-Soviet rivals in 1994 but have lacked clout to find a lasting solution to the long-simmering standoff.

Both sides have accused the other of targeting civilian areas and the United Nations this week decried indiscriminate attacks that could amount to "war crimes".

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has appealed to ally Russia for military support, while Azerbaijan has won the backing of Turkey, which is accused of sending mercenaries to Karabakh to fight against the separatists.

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