Azerbaijan said its forces had captured the key town of Shusha from Armenian paratists


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Azerbaijan said its forces had captured the key town of Shusha from Armenian paratists 1
Azerbaijan said its forces had captured the key town of Shusha from Armenian paratists 4

in Nagorno-Karabakh, but Armenia insisted that fighting for the strategically vital area was ongoing.

The capture of Shusha would be a major victory for Azerbaijan six weeks after new fighting erupted over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave that broke away from Azerbaijan’s control in the 1990s.

The fortress town sits on cliffs around 15 kilometers (nine miles) from Nagorno-Karabakh’s largest city Stepanakert and on the main road through the region to the territory of Armenia, which backs the separatists.

Both sides have reported fierce clashes around the town in recent days, after Azerbaijani forces swept across the southern flank of Nagorno-Karabakh and pushed through its mountain passes.

In a televised address to the nation on Sunday, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev announced that the town had been captured.

“With great pride and joy, I inform you that the town of Shusha has been liberated,” said Mr Aliyev, dressed in military fatigues and standing in front of an Azerbaijani flag.

He said November 8 would “go down in the history of the Azerbaijani people” as the day “we returned to Shusha”.

“Our liberation march continues. We will go to the end, until the complete liberation of the occupied territories,” Mr Aliyev said.

Flag-waving Azerbaijanis celebrated in the capital Baku after President Aliyev’s announcement, with cars honking their horns as residents crowded along city streets.

Armenian officials confirmed there were heavy clashes for the town but said the battle was far from over.

“The fighting continues in Shushi, wait and believe in our army,” Armenian defence ministry official Artsrun Hovhannisyan said, using the Armenian name for the town, shortly after Mr Aliyev’s announcement.

Armenian defence ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan said there was “the most ferocious combat” overnight for the town, while the Armenian government said taking Shusha was an “unattainable pipe dream for Azerbaijan”.

Diplomatic efforts appeared to intensify as the fighting raged around Shusha, with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday speaking by phone to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Turkey is a key ally of Azerbaijan and on Sunday Mr Erdogan congratulated Baku after its claim of retaking Shusha, saying it was “a sign that the liberation of the rest of the occupied territories is near”.


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