View of Mets Tagher village in early October. At least three civilians were killed in Mets Tagher after it was occupied by Turkish-backed Azerbaijani forces on October 23, 2020. Photo by Tatul Hakobyan, CivilNet

A report by Artsakh’s Ombudsman has detailed deaths of sixty civilians, with forty more civilians still missing, some of whom believed to be held hostage and others presumed dead.

Of the sixty civilians, whose deaths were documented, thirty-five people died in aerial bombing and artillery shelling incidents throughout Artsakh. The other twenty-five people were targeted directly in Azerbaijani-occupied parts of Artsakh, including 18 in Hadrut district, five in Shushi and two in Askeran district.

Most killings occurred after the vast majority of local residents fled ahead of Turkish-backed Azerbaijani military advances, and most of those killed were elderly men and women. At least two of those killed are reported to have had mental disabilities. The killings were accompanied by mutilation of bodies, including beheadings.

Among those killed was 46-year-old Vahram Lalayan, chair of history at Stepanakert-based Grigor Narekatsi University, whose remains were found in his native Mets Tagher village on December 20, during search operations facilitated by the Russian peacekeepers and the Red Cross.

During the same search mission in Hadrut district two civilians – a man and his elderly disabled father – were found alive, having hidden in the woods for nearly two months.

In all, some 30,000 ethnic Armenians fled Hadrut, Shushi and other areas taken by Azerbaijan, in what amounted to an ethnic cleansing campaign.