Monday, June 17, 2024

Scores die in Nagorno-Karabakh blast as Armenians flee region

At least 125 people were killed in a Monday explosion at a fuel depot in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to Armenian media reports on Tuesday night. The blast took place as tens of thousands of ethnic Armenians were fleeing the region ahead of its takeover by Azerbaijan.

The remains of 125 people were transported to Armenia on Tuesday, Pan Armenian News reported, citing Health Minister Anahit Avanesian. Initial reports following the blast put the death toll at 29, with almost 300 injured and an unknown number missing.

Located on a highway near the self-declared regional capital of Stepanakert (known as Khankendi in Azerbaijan), the fuel depot exploded on Monday as crowds of people queued to fill their vehicles. Video footage from the scene showed widespread devastation, with a thick plume of oily black smoke towering into the sky over the destroyed facility.

The explosion came almost a week after secessionist leaders in Nagorno-Karabakh surrendered to the Azerbaijani military following a day-long assault characterized by Baku as “counter-terrorism measures.” Under the terms of the surrender, Nagorno-Karabakh will be returned to Azerbaijani control, almost three decades after the enclave won quasi-independence following a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1994.

Fearing ethnic cleansing under Baku’s control, tens of thousands of ethnic Armenians have fled the region following the ceasefire. As of Tuesday evening, 28,120 of Nagorno-Karabakh’s 120,000 Armenians – or almost a quarter of the province’s population – had entered Armenia, according to authorities in Yerevan.

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