Azerbaijan troops enter the first district ceded by Armenia
- Azerbaijan troops entered Aghdam on Friday.
- It was one of the three districts to be handed by Armenia, as part of a Russian-brokered peace deal accepted last week.
- Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev said Armenians destroying property as they fled were a "wild enemy".
Azerbaijan said on Friday that its troops had entered a district bordering Nagorno-Karabakh that had been handed back by Armenian separatists after almost 30 years as part of a Russian-brokered peace deal to end weeks of fighting in the region.
Troops moved into the district of Aghdam, one of three due to be handed back, the Azerbaijan defence ministry said, a day after columns of Armenian soldiers and tanks rolled out of the territory.
Armenia will also hand over the Kalbajar district wedged between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia on November 25 and the Lachin district by December 1.
Earlier, Armenian residents of Aghdam hurriedly picking pomegranates and persimmons from trees surrounding their homes and packed vans with furniture, before fleeing hours in advance of the official to cede the province.
"We wanted to build a sauna, kitchen. But now I had to dismantle everything. And I'll burn down the house with everything I own when I leave," Gagik Grigoryan, a 40-year-old electrical worker, told AFP before abandoning his home.
AFP journalists on Thursday saw Armenian soldiers destroying buildings of their headquarters in Aghdam, a ghost town abandoned for nearly three decades where the separatist army had established a base.
Violent clashes between Azerbaijan's forces and Armenian separatists broke out in late September in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Lasting six weeks, these clashes left thousands dead and displaced many more.
The adversaries finally agreed to end hostilities last week under the framework of a Russian-brokered accord that sees Moscow deploy peacekeepers to the region and requires Armenia to give up parts of its territory.
AFP journalists reported that the last residents left the Aghdam area less than an hour before Azerbaijani forces took control, burning their houses in an attempt to leave nothing behind.
Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev, in a televised address on Friday, said Armenians destroying property as they fled were a "wild enemy".
"They are embarrassing themselves in front of the whole world," he said.
He also promised Azerbaijanis that they would return to "ancestral lands" in Aghdam.
Separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh and several surrounding districts captured the territory and claimed independence that has not been recognised internationally, even by Armenia, following a post-Soviet 1990s war that left some 30,000 dead.
As part of last week's peace deal, Armenia agreed to return some 15 to 20 percent of the Nagorno-Karabakh territory captured by Azerbaijan in recent fighting, including the historical town of Shusha.
The exchange of territory was due to begin Sunday. However, Aliyev postponed the deadline by one week over "humanitarian" considerations.
The Russian peacekeeping force of some 2,000 troops has deployed to the administrative centre of the region, Stepanakert, and set up checkpoints and observation posts along the strategic Lachin corridor connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia.