The Scandal of Turkish-backed Syrian Mercenaries in Tripoli Exposed – Al Marsad

Lindsey Snell, an investigative journalist specializing in conflict and humanitarian crises, produced an investigative report on the Turkish-backed Syrian mercenary terrorists who are being dispatched to Libya to join armed groups and forces aligned with the Presidential Council of the Government of National Accord (GNA). The Investigative Journal’s report serves as an important corrective to another article published last week by the pro-GNA American journalist Frederic Wehrey who attempted to sanitise the participation of Turkish-backed mercenaries from northern Syria in the Libyan conflict.

[Libya, 27 January 2020] – The American investigative journalist Lindsey Snell conducted an investigation into the Turkey-backed Syrian mercenary terrorists who arrived in Libya, where she was able to interview a fighter who was a member of the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (TFSA).

Ahmed, the Syrian mercenary whose real name was not disclosed for security reasons, said that shortly after arriving at the camp in Tripoli as part of a detachment of seventy elements from the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (TFSA), the trainers lectured them on guerrilla street wars and close-range street combat. “We barely hold weapons in practice,” Ahmed told Lindsey Snell.

To send Syrian fighters to Libya, the commanders of the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (TFSA) conducted a recruitment campaign that included providing financial inducements and generous salaries to each fighter, which amounts to US$2,000 per month, and this amount represents a lucrative salary in the face of a skyrocketing US dollar exchange rate against the nearly collapsed Syrian pound, and in light of the meager salaries that do not exceed US$100 that they receive in Syria.

The Syrian mercenary who arrived in Tripoli told the American journalist that “recruitment efforts were heavily focused on areas in and around Idlib that were recently recaptured from the Syrian opposition by the Syrian government and Russia.”

Due to their desperate financial situation and their state of homelessness, the Turkish authorities could easily entice them them by promises of a new life and a good opportunity in Libya to “rebuild their lives for their families.”

According to the report, the TFSA commander mentioned that the “TFSA was offering a sort of recruitment bonus of a couple of hundred dollars for those who did not want to travel to Libya to fight but knew someone who did and referred them. It is not just fighters they are sending. It is also civilians who are poor and willing to go. They have to hit certain numbers every time they send a plane to Libya. To date, an estimated 3,000 TFSA members have traveled to Libya.”

Lindsey Snell was told by the Syrian mercenary that the Turkish President did not tell the truth when he claimed that there are no Turkish boots on the ground in Libya. Ahmed told the Investigative Journal that there are many Turkish soldiers in Tripoli, not just military trainers and advisors as Erdogan keeps saying.

In another context, the report shed lights on the recent circulated news about the attempts made by militants to illegally migrate to Italy. Ahmed also refers to the frequency of many conversations about the escape of a number of Syrian fighters from the Tripoli camp in which they reside and their agreement with a human trafficker to facilitate their illegal migration across the Mediterranean sea to the Italian shores, but Ahmed said that this is not happening in his area. The Turks came in and counted the numbers of Syrian fighters in the camp to make sure this did not occur.

The Libyan National Army (LNA) disclosed the arrest of many Syrian fighters who were trying to make the trip to Italy through ports in Libya, and also managed to arrest a member of the Islamic State. The LNA said that more than a hundred Syrian fighters have paid money to reserve places on boats smuggling illegal immigrants to Italy.

In response to a question if Ahmed felt any regrets about coming to fight in Libya, he told Lindsey Snell, “We have no homes in Syria. We have nothing left. We do not even have a tree branch in Syria. And I still have a family to feed. Call us mercenaries or whatever, but what are we supposed to do? No one has anything left in Syria.”

© Al Marsad English (2020)