Azerbaijan on Friday marked the 29th anniversary of the bloodiest event during its 30-year war with Armenia, the Khojaly massacre.
The town, once home to more than 6,000 people, was populated by ethnic Azeris and lies just within the formerly autonomous Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Azerbaijan says 613 civilians were brutally massacred by ethnic Armenian forces on the night of February 25-26, 1992. The government claims that locally based Soviet military forces also took part in the massacre. That followed an incident a week earlier in which 67 civilians were killed by ethnic Armenians. Reporters and television footage at the time showed badly mutilated corpses, some of which appeared to have been burned alive.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, during a ceremony in Baku, laid a wreath to the victims. Azerbaijani embassies abroad flew flags at half-mast. The date is a state day of remembrance. Government offices were closed.
Aliyev said the late 2020 44-day blitzkrieg, in which Azerbaijani forces took back seven districts occupied by Armenia – a lighting and humiliating defeat for Yerevan, had avenged the massacre.
“Armenia has never been in such a pathetic situation,” said Aliyev, addressing the fallout from Yerevan’s war losses and the current political crises in Armenia in his speech at a ceremony in the capital Baku.
Aside from the outright killings, the entire population was ethnically cleansed, and today no population or infrastructure remains.