New Delhi: Energy rich Nagorno Karabakh, the battleground between Christian-dominated Armenia and pre-dominantly Islamic Azerbaijan, is fast turning into a new stronghold of Islamic State (ISIS) after the terrorist outfit was beaten out of Syria and Iraq.
Several world leaders and reports have warned that ISIS mercenaries in thousands, backed by Turkey and Pakistan, have been fighting against Armenia from Azerbaijan side.
French President Emmanuel Macron said at a European Union (EU) Summit in Brussels that France had confirmed reports at least 300 ISIS fighters from Syria's Aleppo region had been transported into the conflict zone of Nagorno Karabakh and were fighting on the side of Azerbaijan.
His statement was confirmed by the Syrian Observatory or Human Rights (SOHR). He said even Russia has such information and demanded to know why Turkey had transferred ISIS terrorists through its (Turkish) territory into Nagorno Karabakh bordering Azerbaijan.
''I can announce that more than 300 Syrian Islamist militants, who had earlier left the Aleppo region, have been transferred to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict zone through the Turkish Gaziantep. This is a confirmed fact. These people are identified. All of them are affiliated with the Islamic State terrorist organization. I have discussed this issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin who confirmed that Russia also possesses this information,'' the French President told reporters.
He said these fighters are known, tracked and identified. ''A red line has been crossed which is unacceptable,'' the French President said and called upon all NATO members to ''face upto the behavior of a NATO member.''
Turkey is also a NATO member.
However, according to AsiaNews, Turkey has sent 4000 ISIS mercenaries to fight the Armenians. AsiaNews quoted the Observatory for Human Rights in Syria as saying that Turkey had hired them for 1800 US Dollars a month for three months.
"It is a holy war of Muslims against Christians". Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said, adding that If the war in the Caucasus does not stop soon, it will destabilize world peace.
AsiaNews said the 4,000 Syrian ISIS mercenaries had been sent from Afrin to fight against Armenians in Nagorno Karabakh. A few days ago land convoys reached Turkey and then to Azerbaijan by air.
President of the Republic of Karabakh Arayik Harutyunyan also spoke of 4000 fundamentalist mercenaries who had arrived from Syria and other countries in recent days.
'This is not a war between Karabakh and Azerbaijan, or Armenia against Azerbaijan. It is a direct war by Turkey, by mercenaries alongside 10 million Azeris, against 3 million Armenians". It is a war for survival,'' he was quoted by AsiaNews.
It said Syrian ISIS leader Abu Amsha, who became famous for the war in Libya, is also in Azerbaijan and his men are characterized by extreme hatred towards Christians.
The Guardian said Syrian rebel fighters had signed up to work for a private Turkish security company as border guards in Azerbaijan. It said arrival of foreign fighters would inject a new layer of complexity into the battle between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Nagorno Karabakh is an enclave legally considered to be part of Azerbaijan but has been run by majority ethnic Armenians since it declared independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The area is a major oil and gas pipeline corridor.
The latest fighting that began on September 27 has involved heavy artillery and rockets. Hundreds of people including civilians have died in the fighting. Both countries agreed to a Russia brokered truce on October 10. However it did not last long and attacks resumed.
Both countries announced yet another attempt for ceasefire from midnight October 18. The new agreement was announced by their respective Foreign Ministers following telephone calls between them and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. (UNI)