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Azerbaijan closes airspace to Armenia, conducts strikes on Nagorno-Karabakh

TB2 drone strikes in Nagorno-Karabakh, 2020 (Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan)

Azerbaijan closed its airspace to Armenia and launched what it defines as an “anti-terrorist” military operation in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. 

On September 19, 2023, the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan published a statement in which it accused Armenia of systematically shelling the positions of the Azerbaijani Army in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh. 

The ministry reported that six Azerbaijani citizens had been killed by land mines placed by Armenian forces in the region and would thus conduct a localized “anti-terrorist” operation. 

“Anti-terrorist measures of a local nature have been started in the region in order to ensure and restore the constitutional structure of the Republic of Azerbaijan,” the ministry announced. “Within the framework of the measures, front-line and deep positions and long-term firing points, as well as combat vehicles and military objects of the Armenian armed forces are disabled by using high-precision weapons.” 

Azerbaijani forces reportedly used artillery and drones to target the city of Stepanakert, the largest within the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Unconfirmed footage shared on social media shows air strikes targeting the outskirts of the city. 

This marks the first major resumption of hostilities in the landlocked region of Nagorno-Karabakh since a ceasefire was reached in 2020 under mediation from Russia.  

The 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict stood out as one of the first instances of extensive and widely publicized deployment by the Azerbaijani armed forces of Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones and loitering munitions, two platforms that became central in the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. 

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