By Helen Womack, Aghdam, Azerbaijan
The exact number of victims is still unclear, but there can be little doubt that Azeri civilians were massacred by Armenian Army in the snowy mountains of Nagorno-Karabakh last week.
Refugees from the enclave town of Khojaly, sheltering in the Azeri border town of Aghdam, give largely consistent accounts of how Armenians attacked their homes on the night of 25 February, chased those who fled and shot them in the surrounding forests. Yesterday, I saw 75 freshly dug graves in one cemetery in addition to four mutilated corpses we were shown in the mosque when we arrived in Aghdam late on Tuesday. I also saw women and children with bullet wounds in a makeshift hospital in a string of railway carriages.
Khojaly, an Azeri settlement in the enclave mostly populated by Armenians, had a population of about 6000. Mr. Rashid Mamedov, Commander of Police in Aghdam, said only about 500 escaped to his town. “So where are the rest?” Some might have taken prisoner, he said, or fled. Many bodies were still lying in the mountains because the Azeris were short of helicopters to retrieve them. He believed more than 1000 had perished, some of cold in temperatures as low as minus 10 degrees.
When Azeris saw the Armenians with a convoy of armoured personnel carriers, they realized they could not hope to defend themselves, and fled into the forests. In the small hours, the massacre started.
Mr. Nasiru, who believes his wife and two children were taken prisoner, repeated what many other refugees have said - that troops of the former Soviet army helped the Armenians to attack Khojaly. “It is not my opinion, I saw it with my own eyes”.