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Mass Grave Found in Karabakh Region Could Belong to Missing Azerbaijani Soldiers

By Mushvig Mehdiyev April 2, 2022

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Remains of human skeletons found at the Farrukh height in Azerbaijan's Khojaly district, March 27, 2022 / The State Commission of Azerbaijan on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons

A mass grave was discovered this week following the excavation works carried out by Azerbaijan’s armed forces at the Farrukh height in Azerbaijan’s Khojaly district.

Azerbaijan’s State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages, and Missing Persons reported that the human remains could belong to the Azerbaijani servicemen who went missing during the First Karabakh War with Armenia in the early 1990s.

“In the battles for the Farrukh height in the First Karabakh War, 62 Azerbaijani servicemen were registered as missing by the State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages, and Missing Persons,” reads a statement issued on Thursday.

“Taking into account the possibility of mass graves in and around the Farrukh height, a group of specialists plans to carry out relevant search and exhumation activities in the area.”

In 1992-1993, the Farrukh height and the village of the same name reportedly staged bloody clashes between the Azerbaijani armed forces and Armenian military, joined by mercenaries from Lebanon and Syria.

The fate of most members of the Azerbaijani self-defense units and Special Police Forces fighting the Armenian occupants remained unknown until the Azerbaijani forces recently reclaimed Farrukh.

The height became a stronghold for the illegal Armenian armed detachments that actively concentrated in the area and violated the peace with regular armed attacks on the Azerbaijani positions. On March 27, the Azerbaijani army cleared the Farrukh village from the illegal Armenian gangs and reclaimed full control over it.

Armenia and Azerbaijan had been locked in a decades-old armed conflict over the latter’s Karabakh (Garabagh) region. Following the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991, Armenia launched full-blown military aggression against Azerbaijan, marking the longest and deadliest war in the South Caucasus region. The bloody war ended with a ceasefire in 1994, which saw Armenia forcibly occupying 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories. Over 30,000 Azerbaijanis were killed, 3,890 went missing, and one million others were expelled from those lands in a brutal ethnic cleansing policy conducted by Armenia.

On September 27, 2020, the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict took a violent turn when Armenia’s forces deployed in the occupied Azerbaijani lands shelled military positions and civilian settlements of Azerbaijan. During the counter-attack operations that lasted 44 days, Azerbaijani forces liberated over 300 settlements, including the cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha, from nearly 30-year-long illegal Armenian occupation. The war ended with the signing of a tripartite statement by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia on November 10, 2020. Under the agreement, Armenia also returned the occupied Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin districts to Azerbaijan.

According to data compiled by the Azerbaijani government, 3,890 Azerbaijani citizens, including 71 children, 267 women, and 326 older adults, went missing during the First Karabakh War from 1991 to 1994. Baku has been demanding that Armenia assist in investigating the fate of those people, a request that remains unfulfilled.

Post-war searches in the liberated territories unearthed the remains of 12 civilians in the Kalbajar district, where the Armenian armed forces committed the Bashlibel mass murder in 1993. In addition, earlier this year, mass graves of the Azerbaijanis were found in the Dashalti village near Shusha city and the Edilli village of the Khojavand district.

According to data released by the State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages, and Missing Persons, 46 Azerbaijani servicemen went missing in the Pirlar village of the Khojaly district in the 1990s. At the same time, 11 Azerbaijani servicemen went missing in the Aliaghali village of the Aghdam district. The commission is convinced that these areas could be home to the remains of Azerbaijani servicemen who went missing during the First Karabakh War.

Experts in Baku believe that the mass graves of Azerbaijanis killed by Armenians could be found in more locations in the Karabakh region, including in the Khojavand, Khankendi, Khojaly, Fuzuli, Shusha, and Aghdam districts.