1. Archive

Rebel soldiers arrive in Baku, peacefully

Army rebels trickled into this capital city Tuesday, but said they were here to socialize, not fight.

"It is an unofficial visit. We have come to see friends," said one of a group of soldiers sitting in a restaurant, his automatic rifle on his knees and ammunition piled on a table.

The rebels said government forces had orders to stop them from bringing guns into Baku. But no one had tried to disarm them as they came in from the south, and they planned to stay all day.

Nearly 70 people were killed at the start of the revolt June 4 when loyalist troops tried to disarm the rebels. But since then the army has shown little desire to fight them.

Rebel leader Suret Guseinov said Monday he was taking over the oil-producing former Soviet republic to fill a "power vacuum" left by the flight last week of President Abulfaz Elchibey.

Despite the presence of some rebels in Baku, insurgents camped 18 miles away said they had orders to advance no further. "I don't know when, or if, we'll go forward," rebel officer Elchin Askerov said. "We did not come here to attack our own capital but to put our demands before the government."

The rebels have accused Elchibey of bungling a war with neighboring Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, an Azerbaijan enclave populated by Armenians.