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Tens of thousands of Turks rally to mark anniversary of brutal attack in Karabakh war
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) ' Tens of thousands of Turks rallied Sunday to mark the anniversary of a notorious attack that Azerbaijanis say killed hundreds of people during the 6-year war with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan.
Turkey's Interior Minister Idris Sahin made an impassioned nationalist speech at the rally in Istanbul, estimated at between 20,000 and 50,000 participants, which underlined the deep tensions with neighboring Armenia, even though fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh ended with a 1994 cease-fire. The final political status of the enclave has not been worked out yet.
The protesters, including members of labor unions and nationalist groups, filled Istanbul's Taksim square Sunday to denounce Armenia and express solidarity with Turkey's ally Azerbaijan. Thousands of Turks, waving Azeri flags, also staged similar protests in Ankara and several other cities across Turkey.
Azerbaijani authorities say 613 Azerbaijanis were killed when Armenian troops rushed into the village of Khodzhaly on Feb. 26, 1992. The attack appalled Azerbaijanis and contributed to the resignation two weeks later of President Ayaz Mutalibov, whom the opposition said had not acted decisively against the Armenians.
"Murderers, cowards spilled the blood of 613 people, including innocent women and children," Sahin said in an address to the protesters in Istanbul. "This bloodshed will not remain unpunished."
A 2009 agreement between Turkey and Armenia, meant to open the way to diplomatic ties and the reopening of their border, foundered over Turkey's demand that Armenian troops withdraw from the Armenian-occupied enclave Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan.
Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 to protest Armenia's war with Azerbajian.