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Azerbaijani General Dismissed After Conscript Killings

BAKU -- Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has dismissed and demoted a military commander following the death of seven servicemen in a shooting incident, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

The commander of the Shamkir Corps, Major General Chingiz Shafiyev, was sacked by Aliyev and replaced by Lieutenant General Rovshan Akbarov, currently the head of the Baku Corps.

The conscripts died on February 20 at a base in the northwestern Shamkir region in what the Defense Ministry said was "a serious crime." Reports said a serviceman opened fire on his fellow soldiers. All of those killed were 20-21 years of age.

Azerbaijan's parliament dicussed the killings at its February 22 session. Pro-government deputy Zahid Oruc said the president-controlled Group for Supervision of the Armed Forces should intensify its activity.

He also advised Defense Minister Safar Abiyev to visit the Shamkir Corps unit, where the incident took place.

Opposition Umid party Chairman Iqbal Aghazadeh said Abiyev should report to the parliament, as this was not the first such incident in the army. "The minister should come and answer deputies' questions," Aghazadeh said.

Gular Ahmadova, of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, called for establishing a psychological counseling service in the army.

"If the Azerbaijani army is being formed in accordance with NATO standards, then it should also provide psychological counselling," she said. "I don't think Abiyev is the cleverest man in the country, otherwise he would have resolved all these issues. Such incidents will continue until psychological counselling is introduced."

Read in Azeri here and here