Turkey sent approximately 3,800 paid Syrian fighters to Libya during the first three months of 2020, according to a US Defense Department report. This development has come amid the escalating conflict in the North African country supported by foreign countries deploying their weapons and mercenaries.
According to a report by the Associated Press, the Pentagon report focuses on counter terrorism operations in Africa, detailing that Turkey paid and offered citizenship to thousands of mercenaries fighting for Tripoli-based militias led by the internationally recognized government of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj against east Libya-based troops led by rebel commander Khalifa Hifter.
In the report, the US military has suggested that mercenaries were “very likely” motivated by financial incentives rather than politics, and no evidence was found suggesting their affiliation with al-Qaida or Islamic State extremist group. After the killing of dictator Colonel Muammar Qaddafi after a NATO-backed uprising in 2011, Libya has been facing a prolonging civil war.
The report further says that Turkish deployments escalated in Libya between April-May. While 300 Turkey-backed Syrian rebels arrived in Libya in April, Ankara deployed an “unknown number” of Turkish soldiers in the first months of 2020, according to the US military report.
Over the past few years, Libya has been witnessing conflicts between Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and rebel commander Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) in the east. While Turkey has extended military and weapon support to GNA, Russia has backed the rebel commander-led forces. Along with Russia, Egypt, France, and Jordon also extend support to Haftar.
The United States along with other members of the international community have raised concerns about Russia’s increased military involvement in Libya. Last week, the Pentagon alleged that Russian mercenaries planted land mines and other explosives around Tripoli that have killed and wounded several civilians.
However, Kremlin has been denying the accusations imposed by the US military. Earlier this week, the Libyan army spotted military supplies dispatched from Egypt to Tobruk city in the country’s northeastern region.
While Haftar’s forces have attacked Tripoli and other northwestern regions of Libya killing many civilians in the past few months, the government forces have been successful in pushing most of the Haftar forces out of the capital city and other areas. However, with the collapse of the deal to end the blockage of Libyan oil fields, military tensions have intensified in the country in the last few days.
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