Alwaght-Five Shiite Muslims have been shot and killed by state police in Azerbaijan Republic amid a deadly crackdown on the majority sect.
The country's Interior Minister Ramil Usubov claimed on Wednesday night that the Shiites had been targeted in the eastern village of Nardaran due to what he termed as 'plotting a coup against the government'.
Another 32 Shiite Muslims were detained by security forces during the incident.
The killed and detained Shiite Muslims are all members of the Movement for Muslim Unity (MMU), which the Azeri government accuses of seeking to establish a Muslim state in secular Azerbaijan.
The group has been active for more than a year in Nardaran, located just outside the capital Baku, Usubov said.
The village has been raided repeatedly since Saturday after law enforcement agencies received information that the group was "planning provocations, mass unrest and acts of terror", the interior ministry has said.
Nardaran - one of Azerbaijan's poorest settlements - has a reputation for being a stronghold of conservative Shiite Muslims and has been the site of regular anti-government protests. The town has been under siege and without power, water and gas since last Thursday after police raided a Shiite religious ceremony and arrested Shiite cleric Tale' Baqirzadeh (Bagirov), the leader of MMU.
Shiite-majority Azerbaijan is regarded as one of the Muslim world's most secular countries. The oil-rich state has strong relations with the Israeli regime hence its intolerance toward Shiite Muslims.