A missile strike has levelled a row of homes in Azerbaijan’s second city of Ganja on Saturday, killing 12 and injuring more than 40 people in their sleep in a sharp escalation of the conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, the authorities in Baku said.
A residential building was shelled around 1 a.m., the Azerbaijani Prosecutor General’s Office said on its website. Search and rescue efforts continued after 13 bodies were pulled from the rubble and two children were still missing. Armenia’s Defense Ministry denied firing any missiles toward Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev blamed Armenia for the attack in a televised address and reiterated that fighting will continue until Armenia agrees to withdraw its forces from Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territory.
“No one can stop us,” he said.
Hundreds of people have been killed on both sides since the worst fighting in decades erupted between Armenians and Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh three weeks ago. Fighting continued overnight and in the morning of Saturday despite a cease-fire brokered by Russia on Oct. 10.
Armenia took control of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts of Azerbaijan during a war amid the collapse of the Soviet Union. That initial conflict was halted by a Russia-brokered truce in 1994. Mediation efforts since then by Russia, France and the U.S. have failed to resolve the dispute.
Russia has struggled to rein in the latest conflict in an area it views as its sphere of influence, partly because of Turkey’s active support of Azerbaijan’s military campaign.