Azerbaijan says six killed in Karabakh mine blasts

Four policemen and two civilians were killed in separate mine blasts Tuesday in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan said, blaming “sabotage groups” amid spiralling tensions with neighbouring Armenia.

Fears of a fresh war between the Caucasus arch-foes — locked in a decades-long dispute over the breakaway mountainous region — have grown in recent months.

Azerbaijan’s security services said two men died in the Khodzhavenskiy district and four police officers were later killed en route to the blast site. 

The two civilians — born in 1970 and 1965 — were killed around 4:00 am by a mine placed by Armenian separatist “sabotage groups,” it said.

The blast happened “in the zone of temporary deployment of the Russian peacekeeping contingent,” deployed by Moscow in 2020 as part of a ceasefire deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan. 

The police officers who subsequently died were on the road to Azerbaijani-controlled Shusha, a settlement captured from separatists during the 2020 war.

The policemen, travelling on a Kamaz truck, were born between 1987 and 1998. 

Azerbaijan opened a terrorism probe into the incident. 

The deaths came a day after aid deliveries resumed to breakaway Karabakh territories, raising hopes for tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan to ease. 

Karabakh, over which Baku and Yerevan fought two wars, is heavily mined.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has said that landmines were the main obstacle for the return of displaced people to territories retaken from Armenian separatists in 2020.