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Wednesday, 22 March, 2000, 13:06 GMT
Karabakh leader wounded
Soldier in Nagorno Karabakh
The region has been at the centre of a long-running conflict
The leader of Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno Karabakh, Arkady Gukasyan, has been wounded in an assassination attempt.

His arch-rival, Samvel Babayan, a former defence minister, has been detained as a key suspect.

Mr Babayan led Karabakh-Armenian forces in their war of succession from Azerbaijan.

About 25 suspects in total have been detained.

The attackers opened fire on Mr Gukasyan as he was being driven home through Stepanakert, the enclave's capital, early on Wednesday.

Officials said Mr Gukasyan suffered serious wounds to the legs and underwent an operation, but his life did not appear to be in immediate danger.

Legs seriously injured

He is expected to be taken to the Armenian capital Yerevan later for further treatment.

Mr Gukasyan's driver is reported to have been hit in the head and chest, while one of his bodyguards was wounded in the spine.

A spokesman at Nagorno Karabakh's Interior Ministry said the attackers had shot Mr Gukasyan from another car that pulled up alongside.

Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan, has been a cause of a long-running conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Mr Gukasyan proclaimed himself president when the region declared independence in 1991 - a status that has not been recognised by the international community.

Azerbaijan President Haydar Aliyev said he did not believe there was a link between the shooting and ongoing Armenian-Azeri talks on the disputed territory.

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22 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
OSCE mission visits Armenia, Azerbaijan
14 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
Nagorno talks in Azerbaijan
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