Reuters International

BAKU (Reuters) - Azerbaijan said one civilian was killed and six were wounded by gunfire from the breakaway Armenian-backed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh early on Thursday, as tensions simmered weeks after an eruption of clashes.

Both sides said they exchanged fire overnight and blamed each other for starting the fighting.

A Moscow-brokered ceasefire halted four days of violence in the South Caucasus region on April 5, but sporadic shooting is still frequent at night.

"One resident of Chemenli village in Agdam region was killed, six others were injured and taken to the hospital in a serious condition," the Azeri prosecutor general's office said in a statement.

Azerbaijan's defence ministry said in a statement that it had carried out "retaliatory strikes" only on military targets after Nagorno-Karabakh's army hit its positions and villages from multiple rocket launchers.

The defence ministry accused the Armenian-backed rebel region's armed forces of violating the ceasefire more than 117 times with the use of mortars and howitzers. It added that it had had to return fire.

The defence ministry in the rebel region accused the Azeri armed forces of violating the ceasefire and shelling their positions from tanks, mortars, multiple rocket launchers.

It also accused Azeri armed forces of violating the Geneva convention by taking up positions close to populated areas.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a mountainous region within Azerbaijan's borders, populated mainly by ethnic Armenians who reject Azerbaijan's rule. With support from Armenia, they fought a war in the early 1990s to establish de facto control over the territory.

The fighting this month was the most intense since a 1994 ceasefire that stopped the conflict but did not resolve the underlying dispute.

(Reporting by Nailia Bagirova and Hasmik Mkrtchyan; Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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 Reuters International