A landmine explosion in the Kalbajar region of Azerbaijan, west of Nagorno-Karabakh, has killed two Azerbaijani journalists and an official, authorities said.
Four others were injured in Friday’s incident, in which an anti-tank mine exploded a truck around 11:00 local time (07:00 GMT), the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry and the prosecution reported. general in a statement.
The three victims were identified as local officer Arif Aliyev, Maharram Ibrahimov, a journalist working for the state news agency AzerTag, and Siraj Abishov, a journalist for the state broadcaster AzTV.
We make a call #Armenia to deliver maps of minefields. Every day they continue to reject this request, putting more lives at risk.
– Jeyhun Bayramov (@bayramov_jeyhun) June 4, 2021
The blast came amid a border dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which waged a six-week war over the Nagorno-Karabakh region last year.
Azerbaijan’s foreign minister, Jeyhun Bayramov, said he was “deeply saddened” by calling on Armenia to hand over maps to locate mined areas.
The Azerbaijani government has repeatedly accused Armenia of refusing to send these maps.
“Every day they keep rejecting this request, there are more lives in danger!” Bayramov tweeted.
Similarly, Arif Aliyev, head of the journalists ’union Yeni Nesil (New Generation), said journalists should have had access to maps of mined areas.
“I am blaming the international community and organizations,” Aliyev said. “Months have passed and we still can’t get maps of mined areas.”
Kalbajar is one of the regions that returned to Azerbaijan after last year’s conflict.
Elchin Shikhly, head of the Azerbaijan Journalists’ Union, accused the Armenian state of “violating international law.”
“Mines have recently been planted in this area of Kalbajar,” Shikhly told Al Jazeera.
“This means that Armenia is engaged in terrorism and sabotage at the state level. The international community must urgently react to this issue.”
At the time of publication, Armenian officials had not offered any comment on the blast.
Throughout their decades-long conflict, Azerbaijan and Armenia have often denied claims on the other side.
Azerbaijan a week ago said one of its soldiers was wounded after Armenian forces opened fire on the neighbors’ shared border, allegations Yerevan denied.
The alleged incident came a day after Azerbaijan captured six Armenian soldiers in Kalbajar.
Armenia said its forces were conducting engineering work in the area, while Azerbaijan said the soldiers were part of a “reconnaissance and sabotage group.”
Yerevan also claimed last week that one of its soldiers was killed after a shootout broke out with Azerbaijani forces, an incident for which Baku denied responsibility.
In early May, Armenia accused the Azerbaijani military of crossing the southern border to “besiege” a lake shared by the two countries.
The latest tensions come after last year’s rivalry between rivals, which ended in November.
Azerbaijan was considered the winner of the war, with its troops expelling ethnic Armenian forces from the strips of territory they had controlled since the 1990s in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, even by Armenia, but is populated by ethnic Armenians.
Russia finally got a ceasefire to stop the fighting, which blocked Azerbaijan’s territorial gains.
The conflict killed more than 6,000 people on both sides and sparked a political crisis in Armenia, where Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan was widely punished for what many saw as a humiliating defeat.
Pashinyan, 45, said he had no choice but to concede or see his country’s forces suffer even greater losses.
Pashinyan announced quick parliamentary polls under pressure from opposition protesters in the wake of last year’s conflict.
Elections are scheduled for June 20.
Known as the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, Armenia fought with Azerbaijan for the region in the 1990s in a conflict that killed at least 30,000 people.
The heavy battles of 2016 lasted four days in April and last year’s clashes marked the worst fighting since the mid-1990s.
Additional reports from Seymur Kazimov on Baku.