Thousands have rallied in central Baku calling on the authorities to escalate the conflict with Armenia. Before the protest was dispersed by police, a number of demonstrators briefly occupied the parliament building.
Public anger boiled over in Azerbaijan on Tuesday night following three days of clashes on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. At least 12 Azerbaijanis have died so far, including one civilian and one general — the highest-ranking member of the Azerbaijani armed forces killed in action since Azerbaijan’s independence from the USSR.
Turan, an independent Azerbaijani news agency, estimated the crowd in Baku to be up to 50,000 people strong.
The seemingly impromptu rally lasted well into the early hours of Wednesday morning. Demonstrators chanted a number of pro-war slogans, including: ‘end the quarantine, start the war’, ‘order us to go to war’, ‘get up, pass the border, Azerbaijani soldier’, and ‘death to the Armenian’.
A smaller gathering of several thousand also rallied in the nearby city of Sumgayit, where the body of Major-General Polad Gashimov, killed on the night of 13 July, was due to arrive.
The protestors in Baku, in addition to chanting pro-war slogans, also called for the resignation of Najmaddin Sadigov the long-serving Chief of General Staff of Azerbaijani Armed Forces and Deputy Minister of Defence.
Government officials arrived at the rally to try and calm the crowd, seemingly to no avail. At one point, protestors apparently overturned a police vehicle.
In the early hours of 15 July, riot police moved in and began to disperse the crowds with batons and water cannons, making numerous arrests. Tear gas was also reportedly used.
According to Turan, several hundred protesters then marched, escorted by police, to the Narimanov Monument and the Ministry of Taxes, before dispersing.
Three days of clashes
Fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces broke out on Sunday afternoon. Both sides blamed each other for starting the hostilities and have accused each other of shelling civilian areas.
The fighting has so far been contained to an area in the north of the countries’ state border, in the Tavush Province of Armenia and Azerbaijan’s Tovuz District.
It is the most serious escalation since the April 2016 war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Sixteen people have been officially reported killed, with twelve Azerbaijanis including one civilian and four Armenian soldiers dead.
Armenian Defence Ministry spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan said on Wednesday morning that since 00:15, the situation had been ‘relatively calm’.
‘No artillery was used. At around 22:00–23:00, the Armenian Armed Forces shot down two unmanned aerial combat vehicle of the Azerbaijani side’.
The Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, meanwhile, claimed to have destroyed two Armenian outposts overnight.