Explosions rock Nagorno-Karabakh despite ceasefire between Armenia, Azerbaijan

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Fresh explosions rocked the capital of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region on Friday as Azerbaijan claimed fresh advances in nearly three weeks of fighting that have claimed more than 700 dead.

An AFP correspondent in the badly damaged city of Stepanakert late Friday heard the sounds of sirens and a series of explosions despite a ceasefire agreed between warring neighbors Armenia and Azerbaijan.

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Armenia and Azerbaijan had last Saturday agreed to a ceasefire after 11 hours of talks in Moscow, but then both accused each other of violating the deal.

Artak Beglaryan, Karabakh rights ombudsman, said on Twitter on Friday that Azerbaijan had struck Stepanakert “with heavy missiles for the first time today.”

He accused Azerbaijan of continuing to target civilian infrastructure and the international community of continuing to make “empty calls” for peace.

Earlier Friday President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said the army had “liberated” several villages.

A spokesman for the Armenian defense ministry, Artsrun Hovhannisyan, said Azerbaijan launched a large-scale offensive and said heavy fighting continued throughout the day.

Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan, broke from the country’s control in a war in the 1990s that killed some 30,000 people.

Its separatist government is backed by Armenia, which like Azerbaijan gained independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The most recent fighting since September 27 has been the heaviest since the 1990s war, with more than 700 people reported dead, thousands forced to flee their homes and fears the fighting could escalate into a devastating all-out conflict.

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