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Turkish-backed Syrian Militants As New Factor In Armenian-Azerbaijani War

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Turkish-backed Syrian Militants As New Factor In Armenian-Azerbaijani War

Militants in Idlib province.

A correspondent for Afrinpost has reported that in the occupied city of Afrin two offices have been opened with the purpose of recruiting ‘volunteers’ to go to Azerbaijan. According to the report, the recruitment centres are located in Amir Ghobari School, and Azhar Afrin School. Other agencies are also citing statements from militants claiming Turkey has been recruiting mercenaries to go to Azerbaijan for some time.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has claimed that Turkey transported around 300 militants from the Brotherhood militia, the vast majority of them from the “Sultan Murad Division” and “Sultan Suleiman Shah Brigade” known as (Al-Amshat), from Afrin towns and villages. They were reportedly told “The destination will be Azerbaijan”.

The Observatory added that Turkish military recruiters informed the mercenaries that the goal of sending them there is to protect border posts, and that they would be paid a sum of $1500-2000 USD. LINK

Separately, The Guardian has also reported that rebels from Syria’s Idlib province are being recruited by Turkey to fight in Azerbaijan’s conflict with Armenia, citing information provided by several of the militants.

Idlib is the last major bastion of the Turkish-backed militants in Syria. The recruitment drive for fighters willing to go to Azerbaijan began a month ago, three rebels told the Guardian’s Bethan McKernan.

Two brothers from Azaz said they had been summoned to a camp in Afrin on September 13 and told by a commander in the Sultan Murad Division that three- or six-month contracts were available “guarding observation posts and oil and gas facilities” in Azerbaijan for 7,000-10,000 Turkish lira a month.

That works out to roughly $900-1300 a month, and is considerably more than the monthly wage of 450-550 Turkish lira a month ($57-70) that Turkey pays the militants to fight against the government of President Bashar Assad.

“Our leader told us that we won’t be fighting, just assisting in guarding some areas,” said one of the men, whom the outlet named as Muhammad. “Our salaries aren’t enough for living, so we see it a great opportunity to make money.”

“There are no jobs available,” added his brother, Mahmoud. “I used to work as a tailor in Aleppo but since we were displaced to Azaz, I’ve tried many times to practise my craft but my family and I can’t earn enough.”

It was implied that the militants would be taking the job, though they could not say what exactly it entailed, for how long, when they were expected to leave – or even the name of the Turkish security company officially hiring them.

Another militant said that he and 150 other men were summoned to Afrin on September 22, but then told their departure had been delayed.

“When we first started being offered work abroad in Libya, people were afraid to go there, but now there are definitely thousands of us who are willing to go to either Libya or Azerbaijan,” he told the Guardian.

Reuters also reported the recruitment of Syrian militants on Monday, citing two fighters who had fought for Ahrar al-Sham jihadists, and volunteered for Azerbaijan after being promised $1,500 a month.

“I didn’t want to go, but I don’t have any money. Life is very hard and poor,” one of the militants told Reuters. The agency said it could not independently verify their accounts.

Turkey has previously been accused of sending Syrian militants to Libya, to fight for the Turkish-backed government against the Libyan National Army of General Khalifa Haftar. On Monday, the Armenian ambassador to Russia said that around 4,000 militants from northern Syria were sent by Turkey to Azerbaijan, as fighting broke out over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

An aide to Azeri President Ilham Aliyev dismissed those claims as “complete nonsense” and “another provocation from the Armenian side.” A source in the Turkish defence ministry likewise told the Guardian that Ankara “does not deal with recruiting or transferring militiamen anywhere in the world,” but would not go on the record.

The Guardian cited unnamed sources in the Syrian National Army as saying that a first group of some 500 Syrian militants has already arrived in Azerbaijan, including senior commanders Fahim Eissa of the Sultan Murad Division and Saif Abu Bakir of the Al Hamza. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed as many as 1,000 fighters could be headed for Azerbaijan. The Guardian said it could not verify either of those claims.

Some of the men who went to Libya said they had been told they would be working as security guards, but ended up fighting on the front lines instead. They also said their commanders would take up to 20% of their wages. LINK

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