Azerbaijan has?announced the capture?of a key?city in the Nagorno-Karabakh?enclave, but Armenia has denied the claim.??
Speaking to?the nation?on television?Sunday, Azerbaijan’s President?Ilham Aliyev?said that Azerbaijani forces had taken Shushi (Shusha in Azeri), the second-largest?city?in the disputed territory.??
“The city of Shusha has been liberated from occupation. Shusha is ours. Karabakh is ours,"?Aliyev said, adding that his country will continue its fight?until Armenian forces?withdraw from the territory.?
Aliyev’s statement prompted celebration in?Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, where people were?waving?flags?and?chanting?slogans,?and?drivers?sounded?their?car?horns.?
The?Armenian Defense Ministry denied that?Shushi?was?captured but?confirmed heavy fighting in and around the city.?
A?ministry spokesman,?Artsrun?Ovannisian,?said late Sunday that fighting in and around Shushi was continuing. “Neither side fully owns the initiative,”?Ovannisian?said.???
Officials from the Nagorno-Karabakh region?also?denied Aliyev's statement.?
"Shushi remains an unattainable pipe dream for Azerbaijan. Despite heavy destruction, the fortress city withstands the blows of the enemy," the Nagorno-Karabakh?emergencies committee?said.?
The?committee also reported strong fighting in other parts of the?enclave, including the large eastern town of?Martuni.?
Shushi, a strategic city?in?Nagorno-Karabakh?about 10 kilometers south of the region’s capital of Stepanakert,?lies along the main road connecting?the enclave?with Armenia.?
Shushi?has also?cultural significance for Azerbaijan,?as?it was once the?center of?its?culture, where?noted?musicians?and poets?lived.???
The ongoing fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia erupted?on?September?27 and has?claimed at least 1,000 lives,?marking the?largest escalation of the decades-old conflict over?the?breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.?????????
The predominantly ethnic Armenian territory declared its independence from Azerbaijan in 1991 during the collapse of the Soviet Union, sparking a war that claimed the lives of as many as 30,000 people before a 1994 cease-fire.?However, that independence is not internationally recognized.?