STEPANAKERT (Combined Sources) — A tentative ceasefire has been holding between Nagorno-Karabagh (Artsakh) and Azerbaijan after the latter’s surprising attack.
The Armenian side said late on Thursday that its death toll after several days of clashes in Nagorno-Karabagh earlier this month has increased to 36. As many as 122 Armenian servicemen are wounded and 21 are missing, the NKR Defense Army Operative Department chief Victor Arstamyan said, summing up the date for April 1-6.
Active military operations in the conflict zone stopped on April 5 after bilateral agreement reached by the chiefs of general staffs of the Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces. Despite sporadic gunfire, the ceasefire arrangement has largely held since then.
According to Arstamyan, overall tensions considerably decreased during April 7, but in separate directions ceasefire violations with the use of firearms were registered. One Armenian soldier was wounded in the northern direction of the line of contact in Nagorno-Karabagh, and an enemy drone was destroyed in the Aghdam direction.
The Defense Army official said that of the 36 killed Armenian servicemen 9 are officers and warrant officers. “The difference in the number as compared to the previous day is due to the fact that the bodies of four soldiers were found on the battlefield, another serviceman was found alive,” he said.
NKR President Bako Sahakyan said that efforts were underway to assist the citizens whose property was affected by Azeri strikes.
Tigran Atanesyan, an NKR government official dealing with local government and re-settlement issues, said that some 200 civilians deprived of shelter applied to the Karabagh authorities. He said among them were many women, children and elderly people, including those with mobility difficulties.
“The number of people is increasing. They are being accommodated in hotels in Stepanakert. They are now in about three-four hotels. We provide them with food three times a day as well as with medical services,” Atanesyan said.
Earlier, NKR Prime Minister Ara Harutyunyan visited Martakert and stated that the damage caused to the local infrastructure will be quickly restored.
Sahakyan, who wore a military uniform as he spoke at a press conference in Stepanakert late on April 7, said that Karabagh’s armed forces were ready to retaliate should Azerbaijan violate the current ceasefire.
“At the same time, we remain committed to a peaceful resolution,” the NKR leader emphasized.
The NKR/Artsakh State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons issued a statement saying that on April 10, in accordance with the arrangement reached earlier, “the State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons of the Nagorno Karabagh Republic, through the mediation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman in Office, carried out the exchange of bodies of the deceased between the Nagorno Karabagh Republic and Azerbaijan near the Bash Karvend settlement,” the statement reads. “The bodies of 18 servicemen of the NKR Defense Army, fallen as a result of the large scale military aggression unleashed by Azerbaijan in April 2-5, were transferred to the NKR side during the exchange.
According to the statement, there were signs that the bodies had been mutilated.
The statement continued, “Those acts, being a flagrant manifestation of inhumanity, run counter to the laws and customs of war and are in grave violation of the international humanitarian law, in particular, the Convention (I) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field (1949), Geneva Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War (1949) and the Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I).”
In other news, representatives of the military and political leadership in Nagorno-Karabagh argue that militants that once was trained by or fought along with ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq were involved in atrocities against the Armenian military and civilians during the four-day war with Azerbaijan in early April.
As Azerbaijan renewed hostilities in Nagorno-Karabagh on April 2, its commando units carried out a raid inside the border village of Talish in the north of Nagorno-Karabagh. Evidence that transpired later suggests that they tortured elderly members of a local family whom their children did not manage to evacuate in time. All three, including a 92-year-old woman, were brutally killed and the dead bodies of at least two of the elderly people were mutilated.
This and other crimes committed against Armenians, including the beheading of an ethnic Yezidi serviceman of Nagorno-Karabagh’s Defense Army, has sparked an outrage in the Armenian society against the background of reports that Azerbaijan has been using mercenaries, including possible ISIS-trained militants, in its operations.
“Azerbaijan has brought out to the frontlines mercenaries who are wanted by different countries. All this shows that Azerbaijan flagrantly violates all international humanitarian norms and conventions, in particular the Geneva Convention, using weapons that have destructive features in targeting civilian facilities, involving mercenaries and international terrorists in its armed forces,” David Babayan, a spokesman for the Nagorno-Karabagh president, said.
Political analyst Aghasi Yenokyan thinks that if allegations that Gray Wolves and ISIS militants fought for Azerbaijan are proved, it will trigger a great international response and will change the configuration and meaning of the conflict as terrorism has become a global threat today.