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Armenian Groups Claim 1,500 Armenians Killed in Azerbaijan

March 11, 1988

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) _ Armenian nationalists claimed Wednesday that ethnic clashes in the southern Soviet republic of Azerbaijan killed more than 1,500 Armenians.

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation made the claim in statements issued by its headquarters in Athens and an office in Nicosia. There was no way to verify the report.

Soviet officials have said 32 people died in the unrest last week, but Armenian nationalists in Moscow have said the toll was much higher. Foreign correspondents have not been allowed to travel to the region.

″The violence against the Armenian population has reached the scale of a massacre,″ said the group.

The federation said more than 1,500 Armenians have been confirmed dead as a result of ″mob attacks.″

Tension between Armenians and residents of Azerbaijan erupted in violence Feb. 28 in the Azerbaijan city of Sumgait. The unrest was triggered by Armenian demands that Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian region in Azerbaijan, be annexed to neighboring Armenia.

Simom Ainedjian, spokesman for the Armenian group in Nicosia, told the AP the group’s sources were contacts in Armenia. The statement from Athens cited reports from sources in Moscow, Karabakh and the Armenian capital of Yerevan.

The statement said Moslem Azeris, natives of Azerbaijan, attacked the Christian Armenians in Sumgait. It said the Azeris blew up many Armenian buildings ″with the result that the tenants were buried in the ruins.″

A group affiliated with the federation, the Armenian National Committee, also said in Athens Wednesday that more than 1,500 people were killed in the clashes.

A spokesman for the committee identified its source as Armen Sahakian, an Armenian dissident living in Moscow.

″We’ve had similar information from other dissidents and in telephone calls with people living in Yerevan, but he is our main source,″ the spokesman, Jirayr Beudjian, told The Associated Press.

Beudjian said Sahakian had met with people that fled to Moscow from the two republics.

Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev met with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Moscow Wednesday to discuss the ethnic unrest.

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