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Skirmishes Reported At Armenian-Azerbaijani Border After Bombing Incident

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Azerbaijani soldiers patrol at a checkpoint outside the town of Susa. (file photo)

Armenia and Azerbaijan have accused each other of cease-fire violations along their border, hours after three Azerbaijani soldiers were reportedly wounded by an explosive device at a Nagorno-Karabakh checkpoint.

Armenia's Defense Ministry said on November 13 that Azerbaijani forces opened fire at Armenian positions in the eastern Gegharkunik Province shortly after midday.

"The enemy fire was suppressed with retaliatory actions. There are no casualties on the Armenian side," it said in a brief statement.

Azerbaijan, for its part, accused Armenian forces of firing sniper rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers at its military posts on the afternoon of November 13 in the Kalbacar district that borders Armenia.

Military authorities in Baku said skirmishes were continuing there in the late afternoon, but did not report any casualties.

The latest escalation of border tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan comes after an ethnic Armenian civilian was killed on November 8 in Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh near the Azerbaijani-controlled town of Susa, known in Armenian as Shushi.

Ethnic Armenian authorities in Stepanakert condemned the attack, saying the victims were utility workers who were trying to repair a damaged water pipe.

Earlier on November 13, an Armenian man threw an explosive device at an Azerbaijani checkpoint close to where the November 8 incident occurred.

That is the same day that Armenians and Azerbaijanis commemorated the first anniversary of the end of their bloody six-week fighting in starkly different ways, highlighting the continued tensions over the breakaway region and surrounding districts.

Russian peacekeepers detained the man and handed him over to the breakaway region's ethnic Armenian authorities.

Baku says three Azerbaijani soldiers were injured in the blast. They identified the bomber as a citizen of Armenia, saying he had acted together with a "group of criminals" to carry out a "terrorist act."

The so-called Lachin corridor -- a Russian-controlled road linking Armenia to ethnic Armenian controlled parts of Nagorno-Karabakh -- was temporarily closed to traffic in both directions after the attack on the checkpoint.

Ethnic Armenian authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh said the vital supply route had been reopened later in the day.

The Russian soldiers have been deployed along the 25-kilometer-long and 5-kilometer-wide corridor for the past year.

De facto Armenian authorities in Stepanakert also said a joint investigation with Russian peacekeepers was under way to establish the circumstances of the November 13 attack.

They said their preliminary findings suggest that the person who threw the explosive device was responding to “provocative actions” by Azerbaijani soldiers.

They also refuted Baku's claims of casualties, insisting that no one was hurt by the explosion.

A peace deal has been mostly holding but interrupted by occasional instances of violence since 44 days of intense fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan ended a year ago in major Azerbaijani gains on the ground in and around Nagorno-Karabakh and Russian troops keeping the Caucasus rivals apart.

Nearly 7,000 people were killed in the hostilities, which were brought to an end by a Russia-brokered cease-fire agreement signed on November 9, 2020.

The resulting peace deal was hailed as a triumph in Azerbaijan, but Armenian losses sparked months of massive protests in Yerevan to demand Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian's resignation.

Nagorno-Karabakh and seven nearby regions had been controlled by ethnic Armenians since a bitter war began as the Soviet Union crumbled in the late 1980s and then gave way to a three-decade "frozen conflict."

With reporting by RFE/RL's Armenian and Azerbaijani services
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