Turkey’s mercenary traffic in Libya
ANF attained information on the mercenary traffic of the Turkish State which does not withdraw mercenaries from Libya in spite of the ceasefire and calls by international forces. Turkey sent 18,000 mercenaries to Libya in a year.
After the formation of a provisional government and ceasefire in consequence of negotiations under United Nations supervision, progressive political developments could be observed in Libya while there is, however, still no remarkable change in military aspect. This is mainly because of the Turkish state which leads majority of the foreign forces located in Libya, although Erdoğan pretends to support the ceasefire and accompanying political developments.
The Turkish State has transferred a part of its military forces in Libya back to Syria pretending to “adhere to the agreement on withdrawal of foreign troops’ from Libya”. Yet, nearly 15,000 mercenaries allied with Turkey still remain there. Syrian mercenaries are both guarding the occupant Turkish troops in Libya and getting military training in camps.
Reliable sources speaking to ANF informed of recent developments and mercenary traffic on the Syria-Turkey-Libya line. According to the information provided, the mercenaries that were transferred from Istanbul to Tripoli by airline were given back their personal stuffs and phones after arriving in Libya which had been taken from them for security reasons. Afterwards, they were placed in camps in separate groups and transferred to the frontline when required. Dead and wounded mercenaries in Libya were brought back to Syria via Turkey. A number of mercenaries were replaced by others during withdrawal to Syria.
Same sources report that the majority of new groups that were sent to Libya after the ceasefire are staying at Yarmouk Camp and at hotels that admit civilians determined by Turkey. Mercenaries staying with Turkish soldiers are guarding the Turkish bases in the camps. In Yarmouk Camp, all groups, in separate units, are receiving military training especially for urban and desert battles.
LIBYA STATION FOR MERCENARIES
Sources point out that mercenaries of the “National Army” have been entitled to get 2000 dollars a month in accordance with their contract, but the Turkish State usually cuts the wages, pays only half amounts and retards payment. Another source expresses that contracts of most of the mercenaries who were transferred from Libya back to Syria have ended, telling:
“The mercenaries who want to turn back to Syria were able to do so only by bribing 500 dollars to commanders. Libyan people hate Syrians and they do not want the Syrian National Army in their country. There are many who want to turn back. However, Turkish officials and group commanders state that they will keep the military forces in Libya.”
Up to date, the Turkish State has transferred at least 12,835 mercenaries to Libya from Afrin-Azaz line. It is reported that only 1,226 of those have been brought back to Syria. ANF obtained the list of the names of 2,700 mercenaries who were gathered from Afrin-Azaz line, sent to Turkey via Hawar Kilis border gate and then sent to the civil war in Libya. Details based on our research comprising of mercenary groups’ locations and durations in Syria are as follows:
Sultan Murad Division and Hamza Brigade: These mercenary groups defining themselves as “division” and “brigade” have provided the essential part of the invading forces deployed to Libya by the Turkish State. It is stated that 1,722 mercenaries from Sultan Murad Division and 1,810 from the Hamza Brigade were transferred to Libya.
A group of 40 mercenaries crossed to Turkey via Hawar Kilis border gate on 25th July 2020 and after 12 days of military training they were sent to Libya. Similarly, another group of 75 mercenaries on 23 February 2021 and a group of 35 on 14 March 2021, were transferred to Turkey via Hawar Kilis border gate and then to Libya.
Süleyman Shah Brigade: This mercenary group sent 1,910 members to Libya. After crossing into Turkey via Hawar Kilis border gate, 125 were sent to Libya on 26 February 2021 and 90 others on 11 February.
Mutasım Billah Brigade: 150 members of this group were brought to Turkey on 22 June 2020 and were sent to Libya after a week of military training in a camp in Kırıkhan. Also, 150 other mercenaries from the group, who had been prepared for the Euphrates region in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, were transferred to Libya after an air attack on al-Watiya air base controlled by the Turkish State. This group, on 9 July 2020, was transferred to Turkey via Hawar Kilis border gate and then deployed to Libya.
Siqour al-Shimal Brigade: 430 members of the group were sent to Libya. 45 of them crossed into Turkey on 17 July 2020 and transferred to Libya after ten days of military training in Kırıkhan.
El Tesha (9): The group joined the war in Libya with 150 members. 50 of them were brought to Turkey via Hawar Kilis border gate on 17 December 2020. After 10-13 days of military training in Kırıkhan camp they were transferred to Libya. Sources in the region report that this group was held at disposal for Sirte in the mentioned period of time.
Faylaq al-Majid: This group sent 978 members to Libya. It is known that a group of 40 members, that crossed into Turkey via Hawar Kilis border gate on 20 July 2020, were sent to Libya after a military training in Turkey. Another group of 65 mercenaries who were sent to Turkey on 16 July 2020 was also deployed to Libya after receiving training in Kırıkhan.
In addition, 1,170 mercenaries from al-Mutasam Brigade, 600 from Jash al-Watanî, 790 from Faylaq al-Rahman, 600 from Ahrar al-Sharqiya, 585 from Jash al-Islam, 400 from Lîwa al-Waqas, 350 from Lîwa Semerqend, 365 from Faylaq al-Sham, 80 from Hayat Tahrîr al-Sham and 25 from Foc were sent to Libya.
150 non-Syrian mercenaries commanded by Abu Yaqzan al-Misri were deployed to Libya after crossing into Turkey via Hawar Kilis border gate. Sources pointed out that there are many former members of ISIS among mercenaries of Syrian National Army guided by Turkey, who were sent to Libya; pointing especially to the ones commanded by Abu Yaqzan al-Misri. The mentioned group is said to be comprised of non-Syrians who are former members of ISIS.
MIXED GROUPS OF MERCENARIES ALSO SENT TO LIBYA
The Turkish State not only sent “National Army” mercenaries to Libya after bringing them to Turkey, but also deployed mixed groups composed of different units to Turkey via Hawar Kilis border gate and then transferred them to Libya.
The mercenary traffic from Turkey to Libya on July 2020 is as follows:
150 mercenaries from Fırqat Hamza/ Suleyman Shah/ Firqa Sultan Murat;
150 mercenaries from Sultan Murat Division/ Hamza Brigade/Suleyman Shah Division;
a mixed group of 150 mercenaries, composed of members of Sultan Murat Division/ Hamza Brigade/ Fatih Sultan Mehmet Brigade/ Siqur al-Shimal Brigade/ Suleyman Shah Brigade /Firqa Hamza Brigade,
120 mercenaries from Liwa Siqur al-Shimal and Fırqa Hamza.
SOME TURNED BACK, REPLACED BY NEW ONES
A number of mercenaries were brought back to Turkey and transferred to Syria via Hawar Kilis border gate. However, the number of the ones left in Libya is much higher than the returning mercenaries. Similar to the transfers to Libya, the mercenaries who returned to Syria moved in either single or mixed groups.
The Turkish State, within a year of time, withdrew some mercenary groups and sent new ones to replace those. Airplanes carrying mercenaries to Libya brought the same numbers of mercenaries to Turkey on the way back, who were then transferred to Syria.
For instance, 150 mercenaries were deployed to Libya on 24 February 2021 and 60 mercenaries of Hamza Brigade on 9 February 2021. In their place, a same number of mercenaries from Hamza Brigade were sent back to Syria via Hawar Kilis border gate.
Also last year on July 28th, 400 mercenaries were sent to Turkey from Jindires line and from there to Libya. Instead of those 400 from Süleyman Shah Brigade, 400 mercenaries from same Brigade were transferred from Libya to Syria.
18 THOUSAND MERCENARIES TRANSFERRED FROM SYRIA IN A YEAR
Turkey got involved in the civil war in Libya after the agreement signed with Libyan Government of National Accord on 27 November 2019. On 2 January 2020, the AKP-MHP bloc submitted a motion to deploy troops to Libya and immediately next day, started to transfer the so-called “National Army” mercenaries from the invaded regions in Syria to Libya. Previously, during a meeting that was organised on Turkey’s call and participated by the leaders of mercenary groups in Afrin and Azaz, it had been discussed how many mercenaries from which groups would be sent to Libya. While 4 offices were set up to register mercenaries to be deployed to Libya, some commanders selected and sent mercenaries without any requirement to register.
Since beginning of 2020, the Turkish State has sent nearly 18 thousand mercenaries of the “National Army” to Libya. At least 12,835 of those were transferred to Turkey from Afrin-Azaz line and then to Libya. It is reported that mercenaries were sent to Libya from Serekaniye and Girê Spî, both of which have been invaded, in addition to Idlib. Hamza Brigade lost the highest numbers of members, suffering 600 casualties.
AMBIGUITY IN LIBYA DESPITE UPCOMING ELECTIONS
On 23 October 2020, the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) supported by Turkey and the Tobruk-based House of Representatives signed a ceasefire under the roof of the United Nations.
In this framework, political representatives gathering in Tunisia on November 9th-13th made an agreement on the date of elections. A provisional government was formed to serve until the predicted date of elections on 24 December 2021. Three members of the president’s council and prime minister were elected by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) for the provisional government formed in February.
Yet, no significant step could be taken in terms of ending political and military matters like the withdrawal of foreign troops and mercenaries.
Despite the calls of the Government of National Unity, the US, the EU and countries in the region like Egypt, it is estimated that tens of thousands foreign troops and mercenaries are still located in Libya. The majority of those forces is formed by mercenaries affiliated to the Turkish State.