Azerbaijanis and Armenians shot at each other in a disputed region of the southern Soviet Union, wounding 25 people, Tass and activists reported today.
It was one the most violent clashes reported in the months-long campaign for control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a mostly Christian Armenian area that has been part of the Muslim-dominated republic of Azerbaijan since 1923.
The official news agency said demonstrators left a rally Sunday in the main city of Nagorno-Karabakh, Stepanakert, for the nearby village of Khadzhaly. When they arrived, violence broke out.
“Firearms and side arms were used in mass-scale fights on both sides,” Tass said in a dispatch datelined Stepanakert. “As a result, 25 people received injuries of various degrees of gravity and 17 were hospitalized. Both Armenians and Azerbaijanis applied for medical assistance.”
An editor for the Tass affiliate in the Armenian capital of Yerevan, however, said by telephone that Azerbaijanis were the only ones carrying firearms and that 19 of those injured were Armenians. He said four of the Armenians were seriously hurt.
The editor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the clashes were touched off by reports of earlier disturbances in the village between Armenians and Azerbaijanis.
Armenian demonstrators were holding a rally in Stepanakert when Armenians arrived from Khadzhaly with reports that Azerbaijanis had stoned a busload of Armenians on Saturday, the editor said. The Armenians in Stepanakert stoned Azerbaijani houses, breaking windows, he said.
Armenians to Rally
The Tass editor said thousands of Armenians were rallying in Yerevan this evening to protest the violence. The editor said the protesters were demanding a meeting of the republic’s Parliament. He said the Parliament’s executive committee had scheduled a session for Tuesday.
In Yerevan, Alisa Gorgisyan, mother of activist Mofses Gorgisyan, said a strike that began Friday in Yerevan was continuing, but the Tass editor denied there was any work stoppage in the republic. He acknowledged, however, that a strike was continuing in Stepanakert.