Armenians Free 3 of 41 Captive Soviet Soldiers

Associated Press

Armenian militants Friday released three of the 41 Soviet servicemen they are holding hostage in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, the official Tass news agency reported.

The Interior Ministry soldiers were seized earlier this week near the village of Aterk by militants demanding the release of 16 Armenians detained in the last 3 1/2 months of civil unrest in the Caucasus mountain region.

Tass said their release was the result of negotiations mediated by Vazgen Sarkisyan, chairman of the Armenian Defense Council; Maj. Gen. Valery Starikov, deputy chief of staff of the national Interior Ministry troops, and Col. Valentin Zhukov, commander of the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The brief Tass account did not elaborate.

Nagorno-Karabakh is an Armenian enclave inside the borders of the neighboring republic of Azerbaijan.

More than 800 people have been killed and more than 5,000 wounded in three years of ethnic clashes in and around Nagorno-Karabakh.

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