By Anatol Lieven in Aghdam, Azerbaijan
Scattered amid the withered grass and bushes along a small valley and across the hillside beyond are bodies of last Wednesday's massacre by Armenian forces of Azerbaijani refugees.
From that hill can be seen both the Armenian-controlled town Askeran and the outskirts of the Azerbaijani military headquarters of Agdam. Those who died very nearly made it to the safety of their own lines.
We landed at this spot by helicopter yesterday afternoon as the last troops of the Commonwealth of Independent States began pulling out. They left unhindered by the warring factions as General Boris Gromov, who oversaw the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, flew to Stepanakert to ease their departure.
A local truce was enforced to allow the Azerbaijanis to collect their dead and any refugees still hiding in the hills and forest. All the same, two attack helicopters circled continuously overhead, watching the nearby Armenian positions.
In all, 31 bodies could be counted at the scene. At least another 31 have been taken into Agdam over the past five days. These figures do not include civilians reported killed when the Armenians stormed the Azerbaijani town of Khodjaly on Tuesday night. The figures also do not include the other as yet undiscovered bodies.
Zahid Jabarov, a survivor of the massacre, said he saw up to 200 people shot down at the point we visited, and refugees who came by different routes have also told of being shot at repeatedly and of leaving a trail of bodies along their path. Around the bodies we saw were scattered possessions, clothing and personnel documents. The bodies themselves have been preserved by the bitter cold which killed others as they hid in the hills and forest after the massacre. All are the bodies of ordinary people, dressed in the poor, ugly clothing of workers.
Of the 31 we saw, only one policeman and two apparent national volunteers were wearing uniform. All the rest were civilians, including eight women and three small children. Two groups, apparently families, had fallen together, the children cradled in the women's arms.
Several of them, including one small girl, had terrible head injuries: only her face was left. Survivors have told how they saw Armenians shooting them point blank as they lay on the ground.
Article source: courtesy of the book “Khojaly Witness of a War Crime - Armenia in the Dock”, published by Ithaca Press, London 2014