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In Azerbaijan, a series of explosions, screams and blood

Barda, Azerbaijan-The first explosion was loud enough to make us stop the car. It seemed close and sounded like a rocket, so we quickly jumped out and squatted under the wall.

I later realized that if we didn’t stop, we might just hit one of the explosions, only 20 yards from the road.

At the time of the explosion on Wednesday, we drove towards a crossroad along the main street of the provincial town of Barda in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is at war with Armenia, but the front line is 20 miles away from the hotel. By that time, life in the area is still going on smoothly. Women go shopping, men refuel at gas stations.

Then, a series of deafening explosions sounded continuously, each one seemed to be getting closer and louder. A woman began to scream. A man yelled at his family. They walked around the corner, his wife pulled the sleeves off one of her children, and they all rushed along an alley.

Across the road, blood smeared into the basement of a private clinic. Inside the car, a taxi driver was bleeding badly from his leg and was receiving treatment. Nurses, patients and passers-by crowded in the basement, walking around, calling their family members on their mobile phones.

I was in Azerbaijan with photographer Ivor Prickett, covering the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia last month. This is my first time in more than 20 years, but it is no stranger to be hit by rockets-since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Caucasus region has been damaged by six conflicts.

The conflict between the two countries began in 1988 in the densely populated Armenian territory of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. By 1994, Armenia had achieved major territorial achievements, and nearly one million Azerbaijanis had been driven out of their homes, but the war was not resolved and ended.

Now it has exploded again. Azerbaijan launched a full-scale offensive and regained its lost territory. The two sides exchanged rockets and missile barrages in villages and cities in the region.

It is widely believed that Azerbaijan has excellent firepower. It uses drones to target Armenian forces with lethal accuracy and also carried out rocket attacks on the two largest cities of Nagorno-Karabakh.

In Azerbaijan, many settlements close to the front line are hit by rockets almost daily. The attack on Barda was a little further away from the front line, and seemed to be escalating.

55-year-old Kamil Klimov shouted: “You see what the Armenians did to us.” “Do you see anyone from the military here? Why do they do this? You will only see civilians. .” He added: “They want to create chaos.”

Yagubiya Hamidova, a 44-year-old cardiologist who lives in a shelter in the basement of the clinic, recently moved out of the first-line town of Terter, thinking it would be safer to do so. She said: “Please help us.” “No one in the world knows what is happening to us.”

Outside the intersection, a burned car is still smoldering. In the broken glass, blood was smeared on the sidewalk and the door of the office building. Bomb disposal personnel wearing overalls and face masks stand on the explosives regulations.

We squeezed into the car and started to drive out of the city, but at the next intersection we encountered another massacre scene.

The crashed car stood at an awkward angle. Someone covered the bodies in the two cars with a blanket. A pair of shoes and more blood lay on the ground next to another car. The road was dark and the air was full of the smell of explosives.

“Why did they do this to him?” Two black men held her arms, crying a black woman. “People! Please see what they are doing. Why did they kill him? God bless us.”

The rescuer used an iron rod to pry open one of the doors. When they lifted the form of the blanket, the woman sank to the ground. “My baby,” she cried.

Across the road, two more people were chopped down on the sidewalk. A man and a woman lying under a blanket among broken branches and fallen leaves.

One of them was Fuad Izmayilov, a 31-year-old physical education teacher who died outside his mother’s house.

Distraught with blood on his face, his mother held her head and wept.

His mother Tabiat Izmayilova said: “He came to tell us what happened and he died.”

Ms. Izmailova is a widow and said she is a refugee from Armenia and one of the Azerbaijanis. Azerbaijanis left the country when the first war broke out more than 30 years ago. “I lost everyone, now I am lost.”

She regretted that she had never seen her son get married and said that she had planned to renovate the house for him to live in when he got married.

“Why did you do this to us?” she asked aloud. “Armenian, do you have no children?”

“I want peace. I don’t want anyone to suffer this.” She told me. But she wandered around and in the same tone demanded Azerbaijan to take revenge. “Tell our president to stop all this and take all necessary actions.”

All signs indicate that the war is escalating and the casualties are increasing.

The government said that night, a total of 21 people were killed in the rocket attack in downtown Barda and another 70 were injured. Cluster bombs designed to be used against the military in open spaces are banned in most parts of the world because of their harm to civilians in residential areas.

Armenia denied responsibility for the attack.

Since the beginning of the fighting, two major cities in the Armenian-controlled Nagorno-Karabakh territory have also been hit by rockets on Wednesday. The local emergency rescue agency said that a city hospital in Stephen Nakert, the capital of the region, was damaged. A civilian in Shusha City was killed and another was injured.

There is evidence that both sides used cluster bombs. Human Rights Watch criticized Azerbaijan for using cluster munitions on civilian areas of Nagorno Karabakh at least four times this month.

In the morning, we visited Garayusifli, a sleepy village outside Barda, where people buried the victims of another rocket attack. Four people died, including a seven-year-old girl, and more than ten were injured. When the missile exploded, the children had been riding bicycles and their parents were sitting in the shade of the garden and scattered clusters of bombs on several neighbors’ houses.

In Barda, some of the wounded who were treated in the city’s hospital said that the first they heard of the explosion seemed to be a long distance away, and then they said that the cluster bomb was falling.

Zergelam Aliyeva, 18, said she believed the first explosion was an air defense device that shot down a missile. “Then we heard the sound of clusters. They hissed, and then they started playing at us.

She said: “When I heard the sound, I was lying on the ground.” Her friend, 15-year-old Aysun Ismayilova, was lying next door and suffered more serious injuries. She said: “She ran away and it landed in front of her.”

“We can’t believe they will open fire on our village,” 17-year-old Elnure Karimova said when she was injured. “Because there is no army, only civilians.”

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