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Turkey deploys 2,000 Syrian fighters to Libya to battle Haftar: report Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Turkey deploys 2,000 Syrian fighters to Libya to battle Haftar: report

Forces belonging to Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA). [Getty/File]

Date of publication: 15 January, 2020

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Around 2,000 Syrian opposition fighters have travelled to Libya to back the UN-recognised Government of National Accord against rogue warlord Khalifa Haftar's forces, according to a report.

Turkey has reportedly deployed more than two thousand Syrian fighters to Libya to fend off an offensive by Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) forces.

Earlier this month, Turkey's parliament passed a bill approving a military deployment to Libya, aimed at shoring up the UN-backed Tripoli-based government of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.

No details were given at the time on the scale of the potential deployment.

Syrian sources told The Guardian on Wednesday that an initial deployment of 300 men from the second division of the Syrian National Army (SNA) had left Syria on 24 December.

Another 350-strong group from the division, part of Turkish-backed rebel groups in Syria, left the country days later on 29 December.

The fighters were flown to Tripoli and immediately deployed to frontline positions.

In early January, a further 1,350 men crossed into Turkey, with some posted to Libya while others will undergo military training in southern Turkey.

One source told the Guardian that the Syrian fighters are expected to form a division named after Libyan resistance leader Omar al-Mukhtar, who fought against the Italian occupation of the North African country before being executed in 1931.

Turkey said last week that it had deployed 35 military personnel to Libya, but they would not take part in the fighting.

The revelations that hundreds of Syrian fighters have been deployed to Libya represents a significant development in the country's ongoing civil war.

Such fighters have reportedly signed six-month contracts with al-Sarraj's Government of National Accord (GNA), the Guardian reported, with monthly salaries of up to $2,000.

They have also been promised Turkish citizenship as an added incentive to fight.

Turkey and Libya have repeatedly denied the presence of Syrian fighters in the country.

Turkey supports the UN-recognised Government of National Accord based in Tripoli, which has been under attack by Haftar's forces since April.

Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group have been deployed to Libya to fight for Haftar - who is backed by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - together with an estimated 3,000 Sudanese fighters.

Haftar left Moscow on Tuesday without signing a ceasefire agreement mediated by Russia and Turkey to end nine months of fighting in the country.

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