Nearly half of ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh flee in fear: Armenia

Nearly half of ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh have fled the enclave in fear of reprisal from Azerbaijan, Armenia says, as part of an exodus caused by a military operation that brought the mountainous region back under Azerbaijan’s control.

Last week, Azerbaijan launched an operation designed to seize control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a landlocked region in the Caucasus that lies within Azerbaijan’s borders, to end a three-decade-old conflict between Baku and Yerevan over the region.

The long-troubled region has always been internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan though it is mostly populated by ethnic Armenians, who have resisted Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over the territory.

The operation ended on September 20 and Azerbaijani military routed Armenian forces in 24 hours and made the separatists agree to lay down weapons, under a Russian-mediated ceasefire.

On Wednesday, Yerevan announced that 50,000 ethnic Armenians arrived in Armenia, out of the 120,000 ethnic Armenians living in the Nagorno-Karabakh, adding that they were “forcibly displaced”, fearing their rights and security will not be protected in Azerbaijan.

The massive exodus from the 4,400 sq km region started after Azerbaijan lifted its nine-month blockade on the enclave on Sunday.

Ethnic Armenians of the region said at least 200 people lost their lives in the fighting, including 10 civilians. Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense, for its part, released, earlier in day, a list with the names of over 150 Azerbaijani soldiers who it said were killed in the military operation.

In recent days, long queues of cars have formed on the road linking the region to Armenia.

On Monday, a fuel depot explosion claimed 68 lives of the refugees, with Armenian officials saying that they are still trying to identify the whereabouts of more than 100 people reported missing in the blast.

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