Azerbaijan says Armenia used cluster bombs in deadly Barda attack

Several killed and dozens wounded in attack on eastern Azerbaijan, as clash over Nagorno-Karabakh intensifies.

28 Oct 2020

Azerbaijan has accused Armenia of using cluster munitions in two days of attacks, killing at least 25 people and wounding dozens in Barda, eastern Azerbaijan, near Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia has denied carrying out the attacks on Tuesday, when four people were killed, and Wednesday, when 21 died.

Wednesday’s strike marked the deadliest reported attack on civilians in a month of fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Lala Ismayilova, an English-language teacher in Barda, lost her 31-year-old brother Fuad Ismayilov, on Wednesday.

“My father passed away years ago, and Fuad was the man of our family. After the first shelling, he went out to see what happened.

“The second rocket landed when he went outside. He was young. How can I live without my brother?”

Barda-based activist Ulviyya Babasoy said decried the targeting of civilians.

“I saw dead bodies, injured people, everything was ruined,” she told Al Jazeera.

“After the the things l witnessed today, I don’t know how we will continue our normal lives, it is so hard after all of this. l believe that civilians should not be targeted in war. This is crime, terrorism. Stop it, Armenia.”

According to a list seen by Al Jazeera, victims ranged in age from 30 to 80.

Barda MP Zahid Oruj told Al Jazeera that Armenia was attempting to “create scenes similar to Syria and Libya, with people’s blood shed in the streets”.

“It seems like they (Armenia) are intent on creating a picture of war that shows Azerbaijan suffering, inside Azerbaijan’s borders, rather than in the battlefields. Everyone should be convinced that peace in the region depends on Azerbaijan,” said Oruj.

Wednesday’s attack came despite a US-brokered truce agreed at the weekend, the third ceasefire attempt in a row to collapse just minutes after it took effect.

Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev said Armenian forces fired cluster Smerch missiles against Barda, accusing them of using cluster munitions “to inflict excessive casualties among civilians”.

Because of their power, more than 100 countries have banned cluster munitions, though Armenia and Azerbaijan have not.

The attack on Wednesday hit a densely populated area and a shopping district.

Russian border guards deployed

Meanwhile, Yerevan also accused Azerbaijani forces of deadly new attacks on civilian areas of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Since the conflict restarted on September 27, each side has claimed the other is targeting civilians, and both regularly deny the claims.

Ria Novosti news agency reported that Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan confirmed the deployment of Russian border guards along the Armenian border with Nagorno-Karabakh.

“There is nothing special about this,” Pashinyan said. “Russian border guards have been on Armenia’s border with Turkey and Iran … Now, due to the latest developments, the Russian border guards are also on the southeastern and southwestern border of Armenia.”

Armenia’s defence ministry, meanwhile, confirmed that Azerbaijan had seized the strategic town of Gubadli between Nagorno-Karabakh and the Iranian border, an military gain that could make a diplomatic solution more difficult.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but is populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians. About 30,000 people were killed in a 1991-1994 war in the region.

Azerbaijan rejects any solution that would leave Armenians in control of the enclave, which it considers to be illegally occupied.

Armenia regards the territory as part of its historic homeland and says the population there needs its protection.

The Nagorno-Karabakh’s defence ministry has recorded 1,119 military deaths since fighting erupted on September 27.

Azerbaijan has not disclosed its military casualties. Russia has estimated as many as 5,000 deaths in total.