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Azerbaijan accuses Armenia of missile strike that killed at least 13

Azerbaijan accuses Armenia of missile strike that killed at least 13
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Azerbaijan on Saturday accused Armenia of launching ballistic missile strikes on two cities that killed at least 13 people as the two countries’ conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh spirals.

The Armenian Defense Ministry denied launching the attack, but Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev accused Armenia of launching Scud missiles at Mingachevir and Gandja, Azerbaijan’s second-largest city, calling the strikes a “war crime.”

“Today, Armenia’s fascist leadership perpetrated yet another war crime," Aliyev said in a national address. “Shooting at civilians, including firing missiles, is a war crime, and they must and will bear responsibility for this crime. We are retaliating on the battlefield. We are avenging and will continue to avenge the deaths of our martyrs, of innocent civilians on the battlefield.” 

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The most recent rounds of violence mark the latest signs that a ceasefire signed between Azerbaijan and Armenia is crumbling and that an end to the weeks-long conflict over the contested territory of Nagorno-Karabakh is nowhere in sight.

The territory lies within Azerbaijan but has been controlled by ethnic Armenian forces since 1994. Renewed fighting began in late September.

Both sides have traded accusations of targeting civilian areas with heavy artillery, rockets and drones. Hundreds are estimated to have already been killed in the violence.

“At dawn, [Azerbaijani] forces once again violated the humanitarian ceasefire by resuming shelling in the direction of peaceful settlements,” the Armenian Defense Ministry tweeted Saturday.

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The two sides had reached a ceasefire one week ago at a meeting organized by Russia, though the deal swiftly fell apart as fighting continued.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoWar in the Caucasus: What happens without US leadership — but a chance to get it right Pompeo to meet separately with Azerbaijan, Armenia top diplomats Taking aim at online anti-Semitism MORE this week called on the two sides to respect the agreement and condemned the ongoing violence. 

“The United States calls on Azerbaijan and Armenia to implement their commitments to a ceasefire as agreed and cease targeting civilian areas, such as Ganja and Stepanakert,” Pompeo said in a tweet. “We deplore the loss of human life and remain committed to a peaceful settlement.”