Azerbaijani forces captured more than a dozen villages in Nagorno-Karabakh and killed more than 200 Armenians in one of the bloodiest battles in the 4-year-old war over the enclave, news agencies said Sunday.

The three-day offensive was the first major Azerbaijani attack since last week's election of Ebulfez Elcibey as president of Azerbaijan. He pledged to regain all Azerbaijani territory seized by Armenian militants.Nagorno-Karabakh, a mainly Christian Armenian region in Muslim Azerbaijan, has been the focus of bitter fighting between the two former Soviet republics. More than 1,500 people have been killed.

Armenia had gained the upper hand in recent weeks, pushing most Azerbaijanis out of Nagorno-Karabakh. That led to popular unrest in Azerbaijan and the resignation of its president, Ayaz Mutalibov, who had been urging peace talks with Armenia and was blamed by his people for the Armenian successes.

Elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, ethnic fighting was reported in a region of Georgia known as South Ossetia, and Georgian troops reportedly attacked a base of the former Soviet army in an effort to capture tanks.

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