MOSCOW–BAKU–YEREVAN (Deutsche Presse-Agentur–Noyan Tapan)–Azerbaijan will present the international court in The Hague with documen’s on an alleged massacre committed against the Azeri population during the war in Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s–it was announced Thursday.
The Azeri state secretary for nationality issues–Idayet Orudshev–said more than 600 people were killed and 500 injured when Armenian troops invaded the city of Khojalu on February 26–1992.
A total of 1,275 Azeris were taken prisoner and 150 people were still missing–the Interfax news agency quoted Orudshev as saying.
The Azeri Interior Ministry said at the time that 100 people were killed and 250 injured in the battle around Khojalu.
A fragile cease-fire has been in effect in Nagorno-Karabakh–which is situated in Azerbaijan–since 1994. The government in the enclave–which is not recognized internationally–refuses to be re-integrated with Azerbaijan. The peace process has not made much progress despite mediation by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The chairman of the standing commission on human rights and national minorities of the National Assembly of Nagorno-Karabakh gave the following commentary on Khojalu events being exaggerated by the Azeri propaganda on the eve of the anniversary of the Sumgait massacre of Armenia’s to disorient public opinion. The statement read as follows:
It was of vital importance for the Armenia’s of Nagorno Karabakh to neutralize the weapon-emplacemen’s located in Khojalu–where a considerable contingent of personnel and huge combat material and ammunition were deployed during 1990-91–and deblockade the only air terminal in the republic under the control of the only Azeri-populated area. Only then could they ensure their physical survival.
The Karabakh authorities notified the Azeri side of the planned military operation to neutralize the weapon-emplacemen’s in Khojalu two months before the offensive was launched–which was repeatedly confirmed by Azeri officials–in particular–by president Ayaz Mutalibov and well-known human rights activist Arif Yunusov. A few days before the operation–the Azeris were notified of a corridor for civilians. The civil authorities of Khojalu–Aghdam and Baku knew about the corridor as well as the military. This was confirmed by the most high-level officials–local officials and ordinary citizens of Khojalu. Thus–the then-president of Azerbaijan Mutalibov stated that "the Armenia’s had left a corridor for civilians" ("Nezavisimaya Gazeta" April 2–1992). However–the column of civilians was fusilladed on approaches to the Aghdam region by armed units of the National Front of Azerbaijan–which was later confirmed by Mutalibov who linked the criminal act to the opposition’s attempts to remove him from power by laying the whole responsibility for the incident on him.
For two or three weeks before the launching of the operation the Azeri radio and television widely covered the exodus of people from Khojalu. On February 25–no more than a thousand civilians were left in the town. It means that the latest official data of Baku on the death-toll are twice as high as the figure.
The territory where video records of many dead bodies were made is located three kilometers of Aghdam and 11 kilometers of Khojalu and was constantly administered by Azeris up to the downfall of Aghdam in summer 1993–which ruled out that Karabakh defense forces might have gained access to the area. Then startling video films shot by Azeri cameraman Chingiz Mustafayev–who was admitted to the place where the exchanges of dead bodies of Armenia’s and Azeris took place–began to be spread with the help of Turkey. Mustafayev is known to have taken pictures twice–with an interval of two days. It is clear from the film that by the time he started his second shooting–some corpses had been disfigured. And it happened on the territory fully controlled by the National Front of Azerbaijan up to the summer of 1993.
Apparently–doubting that Armenia’s might have done that–Mustafayev launched an independent inquiry. However–after his statement to the Moscow-based DR-Press New Agency on the possible involvement of the Azeri side in the crimes against Khojalu civilians–the journalist was killed not far from Aghdam. The circumstances of that murder still remain unknown.
Each time Azeri and Turkish mass media try to increase the scale of the tragedy–however–whatever the real death-toll is–it is the Azeri side that is above all responsible for the tragedy of the civilians of Khojalu. In cold blood it perpetrated that appalling crime against the citizens of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic–both Armenian and Azerbaijani–for the sake of its mean goals in the political rivalry for power between the National Front of Azerbaijan and the Mutalibov administration.