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Unrest Spreads to Second City in Azerbaijan

March 04, 1988|From Reuters

MOSCOW — Local militia and civilian volunteers are patrolling the streets of a second Azerbaijani city after unrest spread there following ethnic riots in Sumgait, a local Communist Party official said Thursday.

The party official--in Kirovabad, a city of 200,000 near the border with Soviet Armenia--said "small groups of hooligan youths" demonstrated Monday, the day after riots in the Caspian Sea port of Sumgait, 165 miles to the east.

He said militia and civilian volunteers were patrolling the streets "as a preventive measure." He said the patrols were established "at the requests of the citizens."

The Soviet authorities have maintained a curfew backed by troops for the third successive night in Sumgait, where the clashes between Armenians and Azerbaijanis caused several deaths. Kremlin officials have given no firm casualty toll.

The Kirovabad official said the local disturbances were prompted by "rumors" from Sumgait and Nagorno-Karabakh, a mainly Armenian-inhabited enclave in Azerbaijan that has been the center of unrest in Transcaucasia for the past two weeks.

Production Disrupted

Demonstrations in Nagorno-Karabakh for reunification with the neighboring Soviet republic of Armenia stopped rail traffic in the region last week and disrupted factory production.

Kirovabad is about 30 miles north of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Kirovabad official, reached by telephone from Moscow, said that there have been no deaths or injuries.

He said the situation in the city was calm, with schools and factories working normally.

Rioting broke out in Sumgait on Sunday after the protests in Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is administratively part of Azerbaijan although populated largely by Armenians.

Hundreds of thousands of people massed in the Armenian capital of Yerevan last week to demand that Nagorno-Karabakh be reunited with the republic of Armenia.

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