Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of violating humanitarian truce

People inspect the damage following an overnight missile attack by Armenian forces, in the city of Ganja, Azerbaijan's second-largest city, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 18 October 2020

Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of violating humanitarian truce

  • Yerevan’s defense ministry spokeswoman said Azerbaijan had fired artillery shells and rockets in the early hours of Sunday
  • Saturday’s cease-fire followed a major escalation that saw a missile strike kill 13 people including small children in the Azerbaijani city of Ganja

STEPANAKERT: Armenia on Sunday accused Azerbaijan of violating a fresh humanitarian truce aimed at halting weeks of fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region that has claimed hundreds of lives.
Yerevan’s defense ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan said on Twitter that Azerbaijan had fired artillery shells and rockets in the early hours of Sunday, just minutes after the cease-fire went into effect from midnight (2000 GMT).
There was no immediate reaction from Azerbaijan.
Saturday’s cease-fire followed a major escalation that saw a missile strike kill 13 people including small children in the Azerbaijani city of Ganja, for which President Ilham Aliyev vowed to take “revenge.”
A previous truce brokered by Russia to allow the warring sides to exchange prisoners and bodies and begin “substantive” talks quickly broke down, with both accusing each other of violations.
Azerbaijan and the Armenian separatists who control its Karabakh region have been locked in a bitter impasse over the fate of the mountainous province since a war in the 1990s that left 30,000 people dead.
Clashes erupted again three weeks ago and have killed at least 700 people, threatened to draw in regional powers Russia and Turkey, and raised alarm over the failure of a decades-long international mediation.
The real death toll is probably much higher since Azerbaijan has not published fatalities among its soldiers.
With neither side making decisive gains — and a smokescreen of claims and counter-claims of victory blurring events on the frontline — there is no telling when the fighting will end.
The latest cease-fire came after Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev vowed to take revenge on Armenia after a missile strike killed 13 people including small children in the city of Ganja.
The early hours attack, which also saw a strike on the nearby strategic city of Mingecevir, came hours after Azerbaijani forces shelled Stepanakert, the capital of the ethnic Armenian separatist region.
The explosions in Ganja levelled a row of houses and left more than 45 people injured in an attack Aliyev described as “a war crime.”
He said his army would “take revenge on the battlefield” and promised to capture Karabakh by driving out Armenian forces “like dogs.”
Prosecutors said that as the result of the attack on Ganjia 13 people died including small children.
An AFP team in Ganja saw rows of houses turned to rubble by the strike, which shattered walls and ripped roofs off buildings in the surrounding streets.
“We were sleeping and suddenly we heard the blast. The door, glass, everything shattered over us,” said Durdana Mammadova, 69, who was standing on the street at daybreak because her house was destroyed.
Nagorno-Karabakh’s military said for its part that Azerbaijani forces had stepped up their attacks on Friday across the front, shelling Stepanakert and a nearby town.
On Saturday, Karabakh separatist leader Arayik Harutyunyan had said before the truce took effect that “intensive fighting” continued “along the entire line of defense.”
The EU on Saturday condemned the strikes on Ganja and said the original cease-fire deal “must be fully respected without delay.”
“All targeting of civilians and civilian installations by either party must stop,” said a spokesperson for EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell.
Turkey, a staunch ally of Azerbaijan and widely accused of supplying mercenaries to bolster Baku’s forces, said the strikes were a war crime and called on the international community to denounce them.
Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway region of Azerbaijan mainly inhabited by ethnic Armenians and backed by Yerevan, has been the scene of deadly clashes since September 27.
It has remained under separatist Armenian control since a 1994 cease-fire ended the post-Soviet conflict.


Afghan security forces confirm killing of top Al-Qaeda leader

Updated 26 October 2020

Afghan security forces confirm killing of top Al-Qaeda leader

  • Egyptian national Abu Muhsin Al-Masri was on the US most wanted terrorists list
  • Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) said he was killed in a special operation in Ghazni province

KABUL: Afghan security forces have confirmed the killing of a senior Al-Qaeda leader in Ghazni province, eastern Afghanistan, prompting the country's president to accuse the Taliban of having links with the terrorist network.

Egyptian national Abu Muhsin Al-Masri, alias Husam Abd-al-Ra’uf, was on the US list of most wanted terrorists. The US issued a warrant for his arrest in December 2018.

Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) in a tweet late on Saturday said that Al-Masri was killed “in a special national security operation.”

Following the announcement, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani accused the Taliban of having links with the terrorist group.

"The killing of this significant leader of Al-Qaeda's terroristic network proves that there is still the threat of terrorism and Taliban have ties with terrorists," he said on Sunday afternoon.

According to NDS sources in Kabul and Ghazni, he was one of the most senior leaders of Al-Qaeda.

“Al-Masri was one of the most senior Al-Qaeda authorities and was a financial and logistical facilitator of the network and had meaningful ties with Taliban,” the source in Kabul said on condition of anonymity.

He added that an Afghan affiliate of Al-Masri was arrested during the raid.

An NDS officer in Ghazni said that Al-Masri was killed in Andar district, where scores of foreign militants have settled in recent years and have been “protected by the Taliban.”

The Taliban deny the claim.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Arab News that Al-Qaeda has had “no ties with the Taliban” since the historic US-Taliban peace accord in late February. In accordance with the deal, the Taliban pledged to sever ties with foreign militants and deter them from using territories under the group’s control.

The US invaded Afghanistan and in late 2001 ousted the Taliban government, which refused to hand over Al-Qaeda leaders accused of being behind the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 that killed 3,000 Americans.

The terrorist network has been decimated over the years, but US officials believe its fighters are still operating in Afghanistan and some have deep ties with the Taliban.

Al-Masri’s reported killing comes a year after the NDS announced that in a joint raid with US troops it had killed Asim Omar, the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent. Omar was reportedly killed in southern Helmand province — a Taliban stronghold.

A former Afghan spy master, Rahumatullah Nabil, in a tweet said that Al-Masri and some other members of Al-Qaeda were frequently traveling between Ghazni and other parts of Afghanistan and a tribal region in Pakistan’s north in recent months.

The head of the US National Counter-Terrorism Center, Chris Miller, confirmed Al-Masri’s death in a statement, saying that his “removal” was “a major setback to a terrorist organization that is consistently experiencing strategic losses facilitated by the United States and its partners.”

According to Afghan analysts, however, a replacement for Al-Masri will soon be found within the terrorist group’s ranks.

“The killing will have some impact on the network’s activities and the war in Afghanistan, but not a drastic one as new leaders will jump up to fill the gap,” security analyst Ahmad Saeedi told Arab News.

The development comes as an uptick in deadly violence has been observed in Afghanistan despite ongoing talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar to yield a lasting peace and end decades of conflict in the war-torn country. 

At least 20 people were killed at an educational center Kabul on Saturday, hours after a roadside bomb killed nine civilians east of Kabul. Officials blamed the Taliban for the roadside attack.