Azerbaijani leader: Forces seize key Nagorno-Karabakh city

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Tracks from tracer bullets are seen during fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijan’s forces near Shushi, outside Stepanakert, the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. Fighting over the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh has continued for weeks, with Armenian and Azerbaijani forces blaming each other for new attacks. (AP Photo)

MOSCOW (AP) — Azerbaijani forces have taken control of the strategically key city of Shushi in Nagorno-Karabakh where fighting with Armenia has raged for more than a month, the country’s president said Sunday.

In a televised address to the nation, President Ilham Aliyev said “Shusha is ours — Karabakh is ours,” using the Azerbaijani version of the city’s name.

However, Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman Artsrun Ovannisian said on Facebook after Aliyev’s claim that “fighting in Shushi is continuing; wait and believe in our troops.”

Shushi is of significant military value because it sits on heights about 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of the region’s capital of Stepanakert and lies along the main road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia.

Nagorno-Karabakh is within Azerbaijan, but has been under the control of local ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since 1994. The latest outbreak of fighting started on Sept. 27 and has left hundreds — if not thousands — dead.

Aliyev vowed to continue the fighting until Armenia withdraws from the territory.

Azerbaijan’s chief ally Turkey welcomed the claimed victory.

“The joy of our Azerbaijani brothers who liberated their occupied cities and Karabakh step by step is also our joy,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a rally in the northwestern city of Kocaeli.

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