Image taken on April 4, 2016 captures the scene of Stepanakert. - AFP Photo
Separatist forces in Azerbaijan's Nagorny Karabakh province today shot down two Azerbaijani military helicopters after Baku began bombing the region, rebel authorities said.
The worst clash since 2016 has sparked a new large-scale war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which has been trapped for decades in territorial disputes in Nagorny Karabakh.
This morning Azerbaijan began an "active bombing" along the front lines of Karabakh and targeted civilians, including the province's main city, Stepanakert, the Karabakh president said.
The rebel defense minister claimed that his troops had shot down two Azerbaijani helicopters and three drones, while the Azerbaijani defense minister said the country had launched "counter-attacks to suppress Armenian fighting and ensure the safety of the population."
"Let us stand firmly behind our country, our army ... and we will win. Long live the glorious Armenian army!" said Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on his Facebook page.
Armenian separatists seized Karabakh from Baku in the 1990s war, which claimed 30,000 lives.
Discussions to resolve the Karabakh dispute, one of the worst conflicts that arose as a result of the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, have stalled since the 1994 ceasefire agreement.
France, Russia and the United States were mediators in the peace effort as the "Minsk Group", but the last major push for the peace agreement collapsed in 2010.
Energy-rich Azerbaijan made high investments in the military and repeatedly promised to forcibly recapture Karabakh.
Armenia, meanwhile, said it would defend the region, which had already declared its independence but was heavily dependent on Yerevan. - BH