US warns of kidnappings against foreigners in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan’s soldiers fire from a mortar at the contact line of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan on Sept 27. (AP pic)

WASHINGTON: The US on Saturday warned that Americans and foreigners could be targeted by kidnappers or attackers in Azerbaijan, where a conflict is roiling the separatist province of Nagorno-Karabakh.

“The US Embassy in Baku has received credible reports of potential terrorist attacks and kidnappings against US citizens and foreign nationals in Baku,” the diplomatic mission said on its website in a message shared by the State Department on Twitter.

“US citizens are advised to exercise heightened caution in locations where Americans or foreigners may gather,” including major hotels in the capital, the embassy added, without further details on the origin of the threats.

The warning comes in the wake of a similar message in Turkey, where US diplomats have reported “credible” threats of attacks or kidnappings targeting Americans in Istanbul or other localities.

It was not clear if the warnings were linked.

Turkey’s involvement in the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, recognised internationally as part of Azerbaijan but controlled by Armenian separatists, has raised the concern of several Western countries since it said it wanted to help Azerbaijan.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met separately Friday with his counterparts from Armenia and Azerbaijan, urging them to “end the violence and protect civilians”.

During that meeting, Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan pressed concerns about Azerbaijan receiving weapons from its ally Turkey, accusations already made by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pachinian and Armenian President .

The US has said it is neutral but Pompeo has criticised Turkey and in a recent interview described Armenia’s actions as defensive.

Armenia and Azerbaijan accuse each other of having targeted the civilian population since the beginning of hostilities on Sept 27 in the mountainous region.

Russian President said on Thursday that the death toll was nearing 5,000 in the worst flare-up in Nagorno-Karabakh in more than two decades.

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