On the morning of April 2, 2016 alarming news spread from the Nagorno-Karabakh frontline. The Nagorno Karabakh Defense Army reported violent clashes across the entire line of contact with Azerbaijan.
The clashes took place between the Artsakh Defense Army - backed by the Armenian Armed Forces - and the Azerbaijani Armed forces. The war lasted for four days and ended with ceasefire on April 5, 2016.
This escalation was the worst since a 1994 ceasefire brought an end to a six-year-long war.
On the morning of April 2, 2016 alarming news spread from the Nagorno-Karabakh frontline. At 8:18 am, the Nagorno Karabakh Defense Army reported violent clashes across the entire frontline. In addition to other weapons, artillery, armored vehicles and air force were being used.
Starting at 3:00 am, news of ongoing military operations were being spread from Armenian sources only. The main source of information was from the Press Secretary of Armenia’s Ministry of Defense, Artsrun Hovhannisyan's Facebook page. Azerbaijani state bodies were silent.
Military posts, as well as areas populated by civilians, were targeted by the Azerbaijani Army. The first victims were schoolchildren. Twelve-year-old Vagharshak Grigoryan lost his life on his way to school in Martuni because of a BM-21 Grad, a multiple rocket launcher. Two other children were also injured and taken to a hospital in Stepanakert.
The Armenian side stated that the Azerbaijani authorities are responsible for the unprecedented violence.
Clashes were taking place all along the line of contact.
Several countries immediately called for a renewed cease-fire. The first one was Russia, followed by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, which is the main mediating body between the sides.
The Karabakh Defense Army mentioned that there were victims from both sides. However, no announcement was made about the number of victims. During the second part of the day, several soldiers were taken from Stepanakert Hospital to the Central Military Hospital in Yerevan.
The Karabakh Defense Army remained silent about its losses.
The Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan, in turn, said it had 12 victims.
On April 2, then-President Serzh Sargsyan held a Security Council session. He had just returned from the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington D.C. The same summit was also attended by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. At the session, Sargsyan announced the losses on the Armenian side.
Azerbaijan announced that it had occupied territories. The Armenian side denied the statement.
On the morning of April 3, the Nagorno Karabakh Defense Army reported that, again, in the southern direction of the front line, the enemy used rocket-propelled equipment and armored vehicles.
On April 3, the Karabakh Defense Army indirectly admitted that it had lost territory but also announced that it has taken back some posts near Talish that has been under Azerbaijani control.
Hundreds of volunteers gathered in the center of Stepanakert on the morning of April 3 to depart to the frontline. Later in the evening, many volunteer fighters from the Syunik region joined them.
In the afternoon, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry announced that it was unilaterally suspending all military action, citing it was "taking into account the calls from international organizations."
The Armenian side, however, objected, saying the information was false and the violent clashes continued. The Nagorno Karabakh Defense Army simultaneously stated that it was ready to discuss the proposal of a ceasefire, in the context of restoring its initial positions. This was once again a recognition that there were loss of territories on the Armenian side.
The Karabakh Defense Army reported strong clashes in the northeastern and southeastern parts of the frontline. According to the Karabakh Defense Army, in the course of two days, the Azerbaijani army lost 15 tanks and more than five armored vehicles. On April 3, the Armenian side destroyed the BM-21 Grad type 1 missile shield and one unmanned aerial vehicle headed towards Martakert. The Karabakh Defense Army announced it lost one tank.
On the evening of April 3, Hetq News published disturbing photos that depicted the inhumane actions of the Azerbaijani military towards residents of Talish village. Azerbaijanis had murdered and mutilated the bodies of an elderly couple who had not escaped.
The fighting continued until April 4 along the line of contact between the Karabakh and Azerbaijani forces.
On April 4, the Karabakh Defense Army announced the names of the servicemen who were killed. Sasun Mkrtchyan, Nodarik Margaryan, Captains Hovsep Kirakosyan, Armenak Urfanyan, Karam Sloyan were among those killed.
The funeral of 12-year-old Vagharshak Grigoryan was held in the village of Herher in Martuni on April 4. On the same day, career officer Sasun Mkrtchyan's funeral took place in Yerevan.
Major grassroots campaigns began in Yerevan, Stepanakert and other cities. Citizens gathered in all cities to donate blood, first-aid items and food to send to the frontline.
On April 4, the Azerbaijani side used multiple rocket launchers TOS-1 for the first time. Karabakh Defense Army announced that the Armenian artillery dismantled these systems.
During the second half of the day, Serzh Sargsyan invited OSCE ambassadors and announced that further intensification of military operations could lead to unpredictable and irreversible consequences - including a large-scale war.
"If the military actions continue and expand, the Republic of Armenia will recognize the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh,” Sargsyan said.
During an April 4 press conference in Stepanakert, data on losses were presented. According to official numbers, in three days, 20 Armenian servicemen died, 72 were injured, 26 went missing. Four civilians were also killed. It was announced that the Armenian side lost three military posts in the north and five in the south. Fighting on both sides continued. The total area lost for the Armenian side was about 200-250 square meters. The Armenian side lost seven tanks.
According to the Armenian side, Azerbaijan lost more than 100 servicemen, 18 tanks, one Grad, one TOS-1, two helicopters and six unmanned aerial vehicles and other military equipment. Later, spokesman for Armenia’s Defense Ministry, Artsrun Hovhannisyan, announced that 29 Azerbaijani tanks were hit.
In the evening of April 4, an Azerbaijani unmanned aerial vehicle hit a bus, killing five servicemen from Sisian who were on their way to Martakert.
Breaking news from the frontline continued to come in on April 5. The Karabakh Defense Army reported in the morning that, in the southern part of the line, Azerbaijanis used a Smerch multiple rocket launch system. The shelling of civilian areas and military bases continued all along the line of contact.
On the afternoon of April 5, it was reported that an agreement had been reached to stop the fire along the entire frontline. The Karabakh Defense Army later confirmed this news on its official Twitter page.
Later, it was reported that with Russia’s initiative, the Armenian and Azerbaijani Heads of Army’s General Staff signed an agreement in Moscow to cease the fighting.
During the duration of the four-day war, various international media outlets were invited to Karabakh to report from the frontline. Azerbaijan keeps its front line closed to international journalists.
On April 5, the Armenian side announced that the total number of casualties included 29 deaths, 28 disappearances and 101 wounded.
Although the war was named the four-day war, it continued the next day, but with lower intensity.
Following exchanges of remains of soldiers initially listed as missing in action (MIA), the Armenian military's casualties for April 2-5 reached 64 military servicemen, 13 volunteers / reservists and 4 local civilian residents killed by hostile fire and more than 120 wounded. The updated list of the names of Armenian fatalities is published here.
The Azerbaijani defense ministry did not release any additional casualty figures to 31 officially reported on April 5 and never published a more or less complete list of its casualties. But Meydan TV, Azadliq.info and Razm.info collected information on some 100 servicemen killed in combat or missing (and presumed dead) and four civilians killed by shelling between April 2-5. Since the list was compiled primarily from public funerals reports, the real death toll remains unknown. At least 42 of those identified were special forces personnel, including chiefs of operations and intelligence for the Special Forces Command, special forces brigade commander and his chief of staff.
April 2016: Remembering the Four-Day War (Turn on English subtitles)