Armenian police say three civilians have been killed by artillery and gunfire from Azerbaijani forces.

The deaths and an unspecified number of injuries occurred in several villages near the countries' border.

There was no immediate comment by Azerbaijan to the claim made late Thursday, but that country's defense ministry said earlier in the day that Azerbaijani villages in the area had come under fire and that its armed forces responded.

The two former Soviet republics remain hostile more than 20 years after a cease-fire was called in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian region of Azerbaijan. The region is now under the control of local ethnic Armenian forces and the Armenian military.

Each side frequently accuses the other of violating the truce.