Azerbaijan Announces an ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’ Targeting Armenian Positions in Nagorno-Karabakh 

In this Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020 file photo, an ethnic Armenian soldier stands guard next to Nagorno-Karabakh's flag atop of the hill near Charektar in the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh at a new border with Kalbajar district turned over to Azerbaijan. (AP)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020 file photo, an ethnic Armenian soldier stands guard next to Nagorno-Karabakh's flag atop of the hill near Charektar in the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh at a new border with Kalbajar district turned over to Azerbaijan. (AP)
TT

Azerbaijan Announces an ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’ Targeting Armenian Positions in Nagorno-Karabakh 

In this Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020 file photo, an ethnic Armenian soldier stands guard next to Nagorno-Karabakh's flag atop of the hill near Charektar in the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh at a new border with Kalbajar district turned over to Azerbaijan. (AP)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020 file photo, an ethnic Armenian soldier stands guard next to Nagorno-Karabakh's flag atop of the hill near Charektar in the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh at a new border with Kalbajar district turned over to Azerbaijan. (AP)

Azerbaijan on Tuesday began what it called an “anti-terrorist operation” targeting Armenian military positions in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and officials in that region said there was heavy artillery firing around its capital.

The Azerbaijani defense ministry announced the start of the operation hours after four soldiers and two civilians died in landmine explosions in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The ministry did not immediately give details, but said “positions on the front line and in-depth, long-term firing points of the formations of Armenia’s armed forces, as well as combat assets and military facilities are incapacitated using high-precision weapons.”

The Azerbaijani statement said: “Only legitimate military targets are being incapacitated.”

But ethnic Armenian officials in Nagorno-Karabakh said in a statement that the region's capital Stepanakert and other villages were “under intense shelling.”

The reports raised concerns that a full-scale war over the region could resume between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which fought heavily for six weeks in 2020.

Earlier Tuesday, Azerbaijan said six people were killed in two separate explosions in the region that is partly under the control of ethnic Armenian forces.

A statement from Azerbaijan's interior ministry, state security service and prosecutor-general said two employees of the highway department died before dawn when their vehicle was blown up by a mine and that a truckload of soldiers responding to the incident hit another mine, killing four.

Nagorno-Karabakh and sizable surrounding territories were under ethnic Armenian control since the 1994 end of a separatist war, but Azerbaijan regained the territories and parts of Nagorno-Karabakh itself in a six-week war in 2020. That war ended with an armistice that placed a Russian peacekeeper contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh.

However, Azerbaijan alleges that Armenia has smuggled in weapons since then. The claims led to a blockade of the road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, causing severe food and medicine shortages in the region.

Red Cross shipments of flour and medical supplies reached Nagorno-Karabakh on Monday, but local officials said road connections to the region were not fully open.



Biden Ends Failing Reelection Campaign, Backs Harris as Nominee

US President Joe Biden looks down as he participates in the first presidential debate of the 2024 elections with former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at CNN's studios in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 27, 2024. (AFP)
US President Joe Biden looks down as he participates in the first presidential debate of the 2024 elections with former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at CNN's studios in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 27, 2024. (AFP)
TT

Biden Ends Failing Reelection Campaign, Backs Harris as Nominee

US President Joe Biden looks down as he participates in the first presidential debate of the 2024 elections with former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at CNN's studios in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 27, 2024. (AFP)
US President Joe Biden looks down as he participates in the first presidential debate of the 2024 elections with former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at CNN's studios in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 27, 2024. (AFP)

US President Joe Biden abandoned his floundering reelection bid on Sunday under growing pressure from his fellow Democrats and endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris to replace him as the party's candidate to face Republican Donald Trump in the November election.

Biden, who at 81 is the oldest person ever to have occupied the Oval Office, said he will remain in his role as president until his term ends on Jan. 20, 2025, and will address the nation this week. He has not been seen in public since testing positive for COVID-19 last week and is isolating at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

"While it has been my intention to seek reelection, I believe it is in the best interest of my party and the country for me to stand down and to focus solely on fulfilling my duties as President for the remainder of my term," Biden wrote on X.

The move dramatically reshapes a White House contest that has been shaken repeatedly in the last month, including by Biden's disastrous June 27 debate performance - which drove his fellow Democrats to urge him to drop out - the July 13 attempted assassination of former President Trump, 78, and Trump's naming last week of hardline Republican US Senator J.D. Vance, 39, to serve as his vice presidential running mate.

In opinion polls, Americans had expressed widespread dissatisfaction over a potential Biden-Trump rematch.

If Harris emerges as the nominee, the move would represent an unprecedented gamble by the Democratic Party: its first Black and Asian American woman to run for the White House in a country that has elected one Black president and never a woman president in more than two centuries.

Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison said the American people will soon hear from the party on next steps and the path forward for the nomination process. It was the first time in over a half-century that an incumbent US president gave up his party's nomination.

If officially nominated, Harris, 59, would become the first Black woman to lead a major-party ticket in US history. A former attorney general of California and former US senator, she ran unsuccessfully for president against Biden in 2020.

"My intention is to earn and win this nomination," Harris said in a statement. "I will do everything in my power to unite the Democratic Party — and unite our nation — to defeat Donald Trump."

Harris campaign officials, allies and supporters have started making calls to secure the support of delegates for her nomination ahead of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago from Aug. 19-22, multiple sources said.

Opposition to Biden's continued campaign from within his party gained steam over the past week with 36 congressional Democrats - more than one in eight - publicly calling on him to drop out, driven by concerns over his mental acuity.

Lawmakers said they feared he could cost them not only the White House but also the chance to control either chamber of Congress next year, which would leave Democrats with no meaningful grasp on power in Washington.

That stood in sharp contrast to what played out in Milwaukee last week, when Republican convention delegates united around Trump, whose refusal to acknowledge his 2020 loss to Biden sparked the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol.

Other prominent Democrats seen as potential vice presidential material include Governors Gavin Newsom of California, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania and Andy Beshear of Kentucky.

In statements, each praised Biden and vowed to fight for a Democratic win on Nov. 5, without specifically mentioning their ambitions or endorsing Harris as Biden's successor. Each has been mentioned as a potential replacement for Biden and could be among the candidates Harris would consider in choosing her own running mate.

Trump told CNN on Sunday that he believed Harris would be easier to defeat.

LAST-MINUTE SHIFT

Biden had a last-minute change of heart, said a source familiar with the matter. The president told allies that as of Saturday night he planned to stay in the race before changing his mind on Sunday afternoon.

"At around 1:45 p.m. today: the president told his senior team that he had changed his mind," the source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. Biden announced his decision on social media within minutes after that.

It was unclear whether other senior Democrats would challenge Harris for the nomination - she was widely seen as the pick for many party officials - or whether the party itself would choose to open the field for nominations.

Polling shows that Harris performs no better statistically than Biden against Trump.

In a hypothetical head-to-head matchup, Harris and Trump were tied with 44% support each in a July 15-16 Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted immediately after the July 13 assassination attempt on Trump. Trump led Biden 43% to 41% in that same poll, though the 2 percentage point difference was not meaningful considering the poll's 3-point margin of error.

Congressional Republicans argued that Biden should resign the office immediately, which would turn the White House over to Harris and put House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, next in line in succession.

"If he's incapable of running for president, how is he capable of governing right now? I mean, there is five months left in this administration. It's a real concern, and it's a danger to the country," Johnson told CNN on Sunday before Biden's announcement.

Johnson in a separate interview on ABC signaled that Republicans would likely try to mount legal challenges to Democrats' move to replace Biden on the ballot.

FIRST SINCE LBJ

Biden's historic move - the first sitting president to give up his party's nomination for reelection since President Lyndon B. Johnson during the Vietnam War in March 1968 - leaves his replacement with less than four months to wage a campaign.

Biden was the oldest US president ever elected when he beat Trump in 2020. During that campaign, Biden described himself as a bridge to the next generation. Some interpreted that to mean he would serve one term, a transitional figure who beat Trump and brought his party back to power.

But he set his sights on a second term in the belief that he was the only Democrat who could beat Trump again amid questions about Harris's experience and popularity. In recent times, though, his advanced age began to show through more. His gait became stilted and his childhood stutter occasionally returned.

Donors began to revolt and supporters of Harris began to coalesce around her. Top Democrats, including former House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a longtime ally, told Biden he cannot win the election.

Harris is a former prosecutor, and Trump, who is two decades her senior, faces two outstanding criminal prosecutions related to his attempts to overturn the 2020 election result. He is due to be sentenced in New York in September, having been convicted of trying to cover up a hush-money payment to a porn star.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and claims all are politically motivated attempts to block him from returning to power.

Earlier this year, facing little opposition, Biden easily won the Democratic primary race to pick its presidential candidate, despite voter concerns about his age and health.

His staunch support for Israel's military campaign in Gaza eroded support among some in his own party, particularly young, more liberal Democrats and voters of color.

Many Black voters say Biden has not done enough for them, and enthusiasm among Democrats overall for a second Biden term had been low. Even before the debate with Trump, Biden was trailing the Republican in some national polls and in the battleground states he would have needed to win to prevail on Nov. 5.