Elmar Valiyev
Elmar Valiyev

Attack on Ganja mayor classified as terrorism

The man who shot the mayor of Ganja had fought in Syria and wanted to turn Azerbaijan into an Islamic state, according to an official press release.

On 3 July, the mayor of Ganja, Elmar Valiyev, and his bodyguard, Gasim Ashbazov, were shot in the center of the city. Yunis Safarov, a Russian citizen but a resident of Ganja, was detained at the scene.

In a joint statement released today by the Chief Prosecutor's Office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the State Security Service, Safarov is accused of carrying out the attack as part of a plan to create an Islamic state in Azerbaijan ruled by sharia law. According to the statement, Safarov received training with an armed group in Syria. Authorities also claim to have a video, which Safarov allegedly recorded before the attacks, in which he connects the attack to the imprisonment of Muslim Unity leader Taleh Baghirzadeh and calls on Islamists to overthrow Azerbaijan's government.

On 4 July, photos of Safarov were circulated on social media in which he seemed to have been badly beaten, presumably by the police. Yet today, Safarov was brought before the media for the first time and claimed that the police had not mistreated him.

Yunis Safarov
Yunis Safarov.

According to the joint statement, three additional suspects have been arrested in connection with the shooting, but their identities have not been made public.

The victims, Elmar Valiyev and his bodyguard, Gasim Ashbazov, were both reported to have survived the attack and are receiving medical attention.

A close relative of Valiyev told Turan today that the mayor was shot in the stomach and then fell down some stairs, resulting in serious head trauma. The source said that Valiyev has been transported to Israel for treatment.