Hundreds, if not thousands of Turkish-backed militants have been flown to Libya from northeastern Syria since the beginning of 2020.
An article by Investigative Journal, titled “These Mercenaries Believe Whatever Turkey Tells Them” looks into testimony by some of them and the information they are being fed by Ankara, as well as the propaganda they themselves spread.
The Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (TFSA) is in the spotlight in the report. They fight alongside a plethora of various Islamists that are hired by the UN-assigned Government of National Accord, based in Tripoli, in an attempt to enforce its waning grip on power.
They fight against Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA), who are subordinate to the democratically elected Benghazi-based House of Representatives (HoR).
The militants airlifted by Turkey to Libya are quite motivated to fight in the battle, as they’re allegedly fighting also against Russians, or so Ankara told them.
All of the names of the sources are aliases, thus it could be considered that all of these testimonies are “anonymous.”
According to Soleman Mohammad a 21-year-old Syrian mercenary from Kafr Nabl, a town in the Idlib countryside said the following:
“There are Russians here,” he said. “Russian soldiers. The Turks confirmed this to us. I wouldn’t even hurt a Libyan here. But if I find a Russian, I will put a stick up his ass.”
That’s quite the animosity.
Hasan Khalid, a source from the TFSA in Afrin was cited by the outlet, claiming that Turkish forces are lying to the militants to keep them motivated to fight in Libya.
“Of course, there are no Russian soldiers there. If the Turks tell them there are Russian troops in Libya, and that the [TFSA] will get fight them, they believe they are fighting the same enemy that is destroying their cities in Syria. But of course, this is a lie, and Libya is not Syria. But these mercenaries believe whatever Turkey tells them.”
There is also an impending “major offensive” that would presumably start “soon” as Soleman was told, but, so far, he had seen little fighting.
“With the help of the Turkish forces and their equipment, we will defeat the Russians,” he said.
His opinion on Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar was also very one-dimensional and quite obviously based on an indoctrinated, propaganda-based viewpoint.
“Haftar hates the Sunni people,” he said. When informed that Haftar, like the vast majority of Libyans, is Sunni, he added, “I mean, he hates the Sunnah. He is Sunni in name only.”
Soleman, furthermore, believed that their cause was just, since the Americans were presumably on their side. When asked why he though so, he simply answered “We were told by Turkey.”
US President Donald Trump even praised Field Marshal Haftar over the telephone in 2019.
The ceasefire that was discussed at the Berlin conference that hosted talks between GNA and LNA representatives entirely fell through.
On January 28th, a Turkish ship carrying military vehicles and other equipment arrived at the port of Tripoli, escorted by Turkish warships.
This entirely violated the ceasefire, as well as the UN arms embargo, but it was delivered to the UN-assigned government, thus international law, once again, looks the other way.
Abdullah Rahman, a 26-year-old Syrian mercenary from the Sultan Murad faction sent a photo of a JMK Bora-12, a Turkish-made sniper rifle he says was part of the Turkish arms shipment.
When Issa Abbas, a TFSA commander based in the Aleppo countryside, was asked if the weapons were high quality he said:
“I don’t know. The only time the Free [Syrian] Army sees weapons like that is in the movies. Or in the [online battleground game] PUBG. We have never seen this gun in Syria.”
Turkey is also allegedly having trouble recruiting people from Syria to be sent to Libya, likely because people are afraid of the “big scary Russians” there, as well as the LNA which effectively purged over 90% of Libya from terrorist elements.
According to some reports, Turkey offers up to $2000 monthly salary, as well as Turkish citizenships after 6 months of deployment in Libya to militants.
Issa Abbas said that Turkey informed 9th Brigade TFSA factions stationed at points throughout the Southern countryside of Aleppo that they’d be left without Turkish support to repel impending Syrian government and Russian Air Force attacks on the area.
When they were told that they would stop sending militants to Libya, Turkey threatened that it would stop paying salaries, so that issue was quickly solved.
“But that ended very fast, because Turkey threatened to stop paying any salaries,” Abbas said.
The militants being deployed to Libya were allegedly even offered an incentive scheme – a bonus system for every person they recruit to join the fight against the LNA and the presumed Russians.
The militants spent days, or even weeks, in camps in Libya, after their arrival, in quite good conditions.
Ahmad Ibrahim, a 23-year-old fighter from the Sultan Murad TFSA faction sent a video of the villa he was sharing with several other militants.
“This is the new house,” he said, panning around what looked to be a child’s bedroom. “Everything in Libya is great.” he paused his camera on a pack of Kent cigarettes. “And,” he added later, “they let us smoke weed here!”
The video the still was taken from can be found here, it was published in late January by Arabic media.
Soleman Mohammad made similar remarks.
“They smoke hash like cigarettes, and I spend all day high and laughing. I am expected to appear at the frontlines tomorrow, but I will be so high,” he said.
But they were confined to the premises, after they were allowed to leave, they couldn’t roam without a Libyan escort. Their internet access was also limited.
Which is puzzling, why wouldn’t the Libyan GNA allow moderate fighters for democracy freely roam around their streets.
When asked if he would rather be at home in Syria, fighting to defend Idlib, Soleman Mohammad thought for a moment.
“Sure, I wish I was there, a little. My heart is there. But it doesn’t matter. The commanders, the Free Syrian Army, are selling [out] and walking away. So I have, too,” he said.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Tripoli-Based Government Ramping Up Airstrike And Artillery Activity As Diplomacy on Libya Proves Ineffective
- Military Situation In Libya On February 3, 2020 (Map Update)
- Upwards of 3,000 Turkish-Backed Militants in Libya, Mitiga Became “Turkish Air Base”: LNA Spokesman