BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — An Armenian military officer attending a NATO Partnership for Peace program was hacked to death on Thursday morning with an ax and a knife by an Azerbaijani participant, police officials said.
“We suspect Ramil S. of having committed murder with unusual cruelty,” Budapest Police Maj. Valter Fulop told reporters. “We say ‘unusual cruelty’ because beside a number of knife wounds on his chest, the victim’s head was practically severed from his body.”
The Armenian Defense Ministry identified the suspect as Lt. Ramil Safarov of Azerbaijan and the victim as Lt. Gurgen Markarian of Armenia.
“We detained the suspect, who did not put up any resistance,” Fulop said.
The interrogation of Safarov and witnesses — including Markarian’s Hungarian roommate — was under way, said Police Maj. Jozsef Szigeti.
The officers were attending an English language course within the framework of the Partnership for Peace program, which is aimed at increasing cooperation between neutral and former Soviet bloc nations and NATO in peacekeeping and other areas.
NATO officials in Brussels said Hungarian authorities — not the alliance — were directly in charge of the language program, and refused further comment.
Police said a political motive for the murder was among the possibilities being considered and were also looking into how the suspect obtained the murder weapons.
The Armenian Defense Ministry’s statement said the murder was “a result of the bellicose anti-Armenian propaganda, unleashed by the authorities of Azerbaijan lately.”
The killing, at the Hungarian University of National Defense, comes a month after Azerbaijan refused to allow three Armenian officers to attend a conference held in the country’s capital, Baku, under the aegis of the NATO program.
Relations between the two former Soviet Republics remain tense after Armenian-backed forces drove Azerbaijan’s army out of the ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s.
Despite a 1994 cease-fire ending the war that killed 30,000 people and left about 1 million homeless, no agreement has been reached on the territory’s final status.
Azerbaijan’s newly elected President Ilham Aliev said in January that Azerbaijan reserved the right to use “all possibilities” to solve the dispute.