BAKU (AFP)—An Azerbaijani soldier shot dead seven of his fellow young servicemen at a military base, in the latest deadly shooting tragedy to hit the ex-Soviet state’s armed forces, officials said Monday.
An investigation is now under way at the scene of Sunday’s incident, said a joint statement from the defense ministry and the military prosecutor’s office. The statement did not name the killer or give any reasons for the incident. “A joint operational investigation group is taking all necessary measures to clarify the reasons and circumstances surrounding the incident,” the statement said.
Azerbaijani news agencies reported that the shootings took place in a military unit stationed at Murovdag in the Goygol region in the west of the country, around 430km from the capital Baku. All the soldiers who were killed are reported to have been either 19 or 20 years old.
The military in the former Soviet republic has suffered a series of similar incidents in recent years, which rights groups have blamed on a culture of brutality and corruption within the country’s armed forces. In January 2010, two soldiers shot and killed four fellow servicemen before killing themselves. In June, an Azerbaijani soldier shot dead two fellow troops and wounded a third before killing himself.
There have been a series of massive defense spending increases in recent years in Azerbaijan. Officials have stated that the country now has a modernized, battle-ready army, and the Azerbaijani defense minister said earlier this month that his forces were “seriously preparing” for the possibility of renewed war.
Azerbaijan’s parliament members have expressed concern about the shooting of seven and summoned the defense minister to the legislature to discuss the incident, reported News.az.
Deputy Zahid Oruj of the pro-government Ana Vatan Party said the incident was cause for serious concern.
“Some 500 people have died in the army in the past six years, 300 of them in non-combat situations,” he said.