By Ruslan Rehimov
BAKU, Azerbaijan (AA) – Armenia has suffered heavy losses as Azerbaijan retained its operational advantage along the entire front, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said on Friday.
In a statement, the ministry said the situation remained tense in Aghdere, Aghdam, Fizuli and Hadrut as the Armenian army carried out attacks but were thwarted by Azerbaijani forces.
The Azerbaijani army said it destroyed two T-72 battle tanks, one Grad missile, two ZSU-23-4 Shilka self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, five howitzers along with eight auto vehicles with ammunition.
“Cases of mass desertion among the military personnel and reservists were observed on the defensive line of the 18th motorized rifle division of the Armenian armed forces,” it said, adding many Armenian troops of the 5th mountain rifle regiment were killed and wounded.
“It became known that some of the mercenaries who arrived in the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh refused to join the battle,” the statement added.
Relations between the two former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, or Nagorno Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan.
Some 20% of Azerbaijan's territory has remained under illegal Armenian occupation for some three decades.
The OSCE Minsk Group — co-chaired by France, Russia, and the US — was formed in 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but to no avail. A ceasefire, however, was agreed to in 1994.
Fresh clashes between the two countries began on Sept. 27, and since then Armenia has continued attacks on civilians and Azerbaijani forces.
Azerbaijan's Prosecutor General's Office said on Thursday that at least 43 civilians had been killed and 218 injured due to the fresh Armenian attacks.
Multiple UN resolutions, as well as international organizations, demand the withdrawal of the invading forces. Turkey has consistently supported Azerbaijan’s right to self-defense and demanded the withdrawal of Armenia's occupying forces.
*Writing by Burak Dag