In Libya, Turkish mercenaries continue to flow from Syria

Libyan-American expert says Turkey provides the weapons, Qatar the funds.
Monday 18/05/2020
A 2019 file picture of a fighter loyal to the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) at a position south of the Libyan capital Tripoli.  (AFP)
Fuelling war. A 2019 file picture of a fighter loyal to the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) at a position south of the Libyan capital Tripoli. (AFP)

TRIPOLI--A new contingent of Turkish-dispatched mercenaries have arrived in Libya, said a Syria watch-group on Monday.

According the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), “a new batch of 120 fighters of Turkish-backed factions have arrived at training camps in southern Turkey” from the Afrin region “after undergoing training courses in camps in Turkish territory.”

The mercenaries are fighting for the Turkish-Qatari backed Government of National Accord (GNA) headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj against the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Field-Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

SOHR put the total number of mercenary recruits who arrived in Libya at 8,950 on top of about 3,420 others still undergoing training in Turkey.

Recruits include 150 minors, said the watch-group.

The Syrian Observatory said its sources documented Sunday the death of 11 “Turkish-backed mercenaries,” including a minor.

According to SOHR’s tally, the total number of Turkish-backed Syrian fighters killed in military operations in Libya is estimated  at 298, including 17 minors.

Killed fighters, it said, belonged to the factions al-Mu’tasim Division, Sultan Murad, Suqur Al-Shamal Brigade, Al-Hamzat and Suleiman Shah.  They were killed in clashes near Tripoli,  at Al-Hadabah Project area, in Misrata and other parts of Libya.

Although Ankara’s military and intelligence apparatus is suspected of being behind the dispatching of Syria mercenaries to Libya, there have also been reports of Qatar helping finance the recruitment drive.

Dr Mansour El-Kikhia, Libyan-American professor of political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio, told The Media Line that Turkey is paying the mercenaries to fight for the GNA. “It’s paying them $2,000 a month in cash and it’s paid to them in Turkey. Indeed, they are mercenaries, and they are being killed in the battle,” he said.

“Libya is divided between east and west. The west is controlled by Islamist militias [along with Fayez al-Sarraj’s ‘Government of National Accord’], while the east is controlled by the Libyan army, which is moving west to dislodge the militias. Now the militias are supported by Turkey and Qatar.”

El-Kikhia talked of a distribution of labour of sorts between Doha and Ankara. He said Qatar financed the recruitment while Turkey provided the weapons. “It’s for influence [in Libya], and, believe it or not, access to oil in the Mediterranean Sea,” he said. “Turkey gains influence and Qatar is paying for the operation.”