An Azeri woman and a child were killed and another civilian was wounded by Armenian-backed rebels near the boundary with the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said on Wednesday.
Sporadic exchanges of fire in the fight for control over the region – inside Azerbaijan but controlled by ethnic Armenians – have stoked fears of a wider conflict breaking out in the South Caucasus, which is criss-crossed by oil and gas pipelines.
“Two residents of the village of Alkhanly, including a two-year-old girl, were killed and one was wounded on July 4 as a result of shelling by Armenian forces,” Azeri defense ministry spokesman Vagif Dergakhly told a news conference.
Azeri forces had returned fire, he said, inflicting casualties on the other side.
Nagorno-Karabakh’s self-declared defense ministry said Azeri forces had violated the ceasefire agreement, opened fire first and used anti-tank and other heavy weapons.
Skirmishes have intensified in the past three years, and at least 200 people were killed in a violent flare-up last April.
Both sides have significantly increased their use of heavy artillery and anti-tank weapons since May when self-guided rockets and missiles were reported to have been fired near densely populated areas along the contact line.
(Reporting by Nailia Bagirova and Hasmik Mkrtchyan; Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Dmitry Solovyov and Louise Ireland)