Syrian mercenaries in Libya and the Erdogan-Muslim Brotherhood surprise

المرتزقة السوريين في ليبيا

Introduction

The two memoranda of understanding passed the Turkish parliament on December 21, 2019, and on January 2, 2020, enabled Turkey to send military forces to Libya for supporting the „Government of National Accord“(GNA). That was done to effectively restore Turkey’s presence in the Mediterranean, as it expanded its maritime borders and started gas exploration operations on the one hand, and hindered regional counter-projects on the other hand. The most important of which was the East Mediterranean Gas Forum, which had been announced in January 2019.

The legal agreement with the GNA supported the Turkish maritime position in the historical sovereignty competition with Greece over some of the Mediterranean islands. Experts believe that this agreement will delay the Greek-Israeli-Cyprus plan and may make this agreement inapplicable.

The Turkish presence in Libya entrenched the Turkish power cards against the European Union, especially in the fields of energy, immigration and security. That became evident when Turkey emerged as a competitor to France in the Mediterranean and its active presence in the Berlin 2020 conference.

The Turkish presence in Libya was strengthened, which contributed to ending Haftar’s Tripoli operation, and strengthened the Turkish position against the Arab coalition supporting Haftar, the coalition which supports a political project against Turkish interests in the region.

Return to the beginnings – From Libya to Syria

As soon as Gaddafi’s regime was toppled in Libya, the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood – in coordination with Turkey and Qatar – shipped Libyan Islamist mercenaries to fight in Syria. But this action was not limited to Libyan militants, they also transferred huge quantities of NATO and Libyan army’s weapons to Turkey and from there to Syria. Later, those militants formed the nucleus of the most dangerous organization in Syria, the Islamic State.

In December 2011, and under the observation of the Libyan National Transitional Council, the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood member Abdel Karim Belhadj was coordinating the transportation of the first batch of 3,250 Libyan fighters in the beginning of 2012.

At the same time, Turkey arranged the transfer of NATO weapons – which had been provided to the Libyan opposition to topple Qaddafi – to Syria with the help of the Syrian-Swedish MB member Haitham Rahma.

In Syria, the Libyans formed independent brigades, the most famous of which were the Al-Battar and Green Brigade, both of whom belong intellectually and politically to the Muslim Brotherhood.

From Syria to Libya

As a result of the Turkish-Russian-Iranian agreements on Syria, Turkey has asked Libyan fighters to return to Libya and support al-Saraj’s Islamist government. Less than 2,000 fighters have returned to Libya out of 9650, but they were not sufficient to repel the Libyan National Army’s attacks.

In late 2019, Turkish intelligence began looking for alternatives to cover the shortfall in Libyan fighters and made a decision to send Syrian fighters to Libya.

By doing so, Turkey aims to the following:

  • Helping the al-Saraj government to win and consolidate its rule, then dividing Libya and establishing a small Islamic state similar to what happened in northwestern Syria.
  • To get rid of the Syrian fighters, whose presence in Syria could pose a threat to Turkish interests in terms of suspicious Turkish, Russian and Iranian agreements.
  • To get rid of the economic burden resulting from the presence of hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians in northern Syria, displaced by many agreements, that were concluded by the Turkish side with representatives of the Syrian regime in each of Zabadani , Madaya, Eastern Qalamoun, Western Qalamoun, Ghouta, Daraa governorate and Homs.

The Implementation of the Turkish-Qatari Muslim Brotherhood concept

After the operation „Peace Spring“, Turkey launched against the Syrian Democratic Forces SDF in late 2019, a decision was made by the Turkish intelligence to start sending Syrian fighters to Libya.

On December 15, 2019, the Turkish intelligence service called the Syrian fighting factions to an urgent meeting. It was headed by Abu Furqan, the most powerful representative of the factions in Turkey. He was the head of the Syrian-Turkish Security Coordination Committee since the start of the Syrian Revolution.

From the Turkish side, another unknown person attended the meeting: Colonel Ghazi (Nick name), who will later become responsible for training and dispatching Syrians to Libya.

Colonel Ghazi speaks Arabic well, and he was a leader in the „Euphrates Shield“, „Olive Branch“ and the „Peace Spring“ operations. He has an experience in dealing with jihadists, as he was responsible the process of bringing jihadists to Syria, especially between 2011 and 2015.

Most of the faction leaders attending the meeting expressed their approval, while others asked for some time to discuss with the other leaders.

The factions that agreed immediately:

  • Faylaq al-Sham
  • Liwaa al-Mutasem
  • Sultan Murad Brigade
  • Sultan Suleiman Shah Brigade
  • Samarkand Brigade
  • Al Hamza Squad
  • Jabhat al-Sham
  • Ahrar al-Sharqiya
  • Jaysh al-Sharqiya

The factions that were skeptical at the beginning:

  • Jaysh al-Islam
  • Soqur al-Shamal
  • Faylaq al-Rahman
  • Faylaq al-Majd

Note: The faction leaders received $ 1 million in reward for starting the recruitment.

The Role of Qatari Intelligence in the Recruitment Process:

While the Turkish intelligence was targeting opposition groups, Qatari intelligence – strongly present in the Syrian north – was targeting the more extremist Islamic parts, internationally classified as terrorist groups.

Qatari Intelligence recruits and sends al-Qaeda fighters to Syria since early 2019, and they numbered 185 fighters in the beginning of 2020.

When Turkey started the recruitment operations at the end of 2019, the Qataris sent other batches, in which the approximate number of fighters was 150 militants.

Recruitment Methods:

First – Recruiting from military units:

As soon as the meeting was over, the faction leaders headed to their units and began convincing the fighters to fight in Libya, following a policy of carrot and stick.

Temptations:

  • Monthly salary ranges between $ 1200 to 2000 (depending on the task)
  • 3 months recruitment, including holidays
  • Turkish citizenship upon completion of the mission
  • Health care and social insurance for all those injured in Libya

 Intimidation:

  • Cutting salaries for everyone who fails

Lifting the Turkish protection from the faction that refuses to participate

Note: The fighters did not receive the salaries promised by the Turkish intelligence services, nor did we obtain a single piece of information confirming that one of the returnees was granted the Turkish citizenship.

Second – Tribes

The commander of Suleiman Shah Brigade and the Commander-in-Chief of the Syrian National Army in Libya and Muhammad al-Jasim (Abu Amsha) were assigned to communicate with the Syrian Tribes Council backed by Turkey, in order to establish a military force to be sent to Libya.

It was agreed to send batches of fighters – 200 fighters each batch – for a period of three months, then the batches will be replaced with a new batch when the other batches complete their tasks in Libya.

Al-Jasim stipulated that his faction should get $ 200 for each salary paid for the fighters. Clan heads agreed to this condition and sent fighters.

Commissioned by the Turkish Intelligence Ahmed Al-Hayes, the commander of Ahrar al-Sharqiya faction and Abu Ali Hussein Hammadi contacted fighters displaced from Damascus countryside, Homs and its countryside, in addition to the fighters east of Hama’s tribes. They formed combat units consisting of 200 fighters each and they were dispatched to Libya in the middle of Ramadan.

The commander of al-Sultan Murad Brigade also recruited fighters from clans in northern Syria. He formed a military force of 50 fighters led by Hamido Al-Juhaishi, dispatched to participate in the Tarhuna battles.

Third – Camps:

The recruitment operations in the camp were carried out by Syrian groups in addition to the Turkish Sadat Security Company, commanders were visiting the camps to find strong young men among the displaced people in order to recruit them.

The northern Syrian camps in Aleppo and northwest Idlib were the easiest target, as some 8,000 youths (including children) were recruited from these camps between March and May 2019.

Itinerary:

  • The faction leaders provide names to Turkish intelligence to be examined
  • After the approval, mercenaries are gathered in one of the training camps prepared for the Libyan war, and the most important of which are:

Al-Zarifa camp in Afrin countryside

Western camp in Jarablus

During this period, the recruited men were being trained to use light weapons and were attending intensive courses in psychological indoctrination (especially regarding religious matters).

After completing the training (in some cases even before), fighters were sent to Gaziantep or Adana airport, from there they were dispatched to Libya.

We monitored that the Unver Hotel in Adana was the place where many fighters stayed before heading to the airport.

After arriving in Libya:

The fighters were distributed to the camps, the most important of which are:

  • Basis Camp
  • Al Sawani Camp
  • Zara camp
  • Abu Qurain (Sirte)
  • Al-Hussein base (Sirte)

Then they are directed to fight on the fronts.

Military coordination in Libya:

  • Turkish officers command artillery, missiles and drones.
  • The Syrians are thrown into the first ranks on the fronts, which is the reason of their high losses.
  • The Syrian mercenaries assume the tasks of inspection and deployment after the end of the military operation. They were also looting houses and anything available, similar to what they used to do in Syria, and they were selling the looted things on second hand markets of Tripoli.
  • Disputes erupted between Libyan and Syrian fighters, many accusations were brought against the Syrian fighters of working in favor of enemies, which led many of them to return to Syria.
  • Cooperation of Libyans with the Syrian National Army’s members
  • They convince them to sell the weapons they own due to their low price in exchange for weapons in Libya.
  • Members of the GNA spread cannabis and drugs among the Syrian members who fight with the national army.
  • Steeling cars provided to the Syrian fighters by Turkey, some of them armored. Some cars were sold for $ 100,000.

Special prisons were designated for Syrians in the GNA areas, which are:

  1. A prison in Al-Zawiya area, prison official is the Libyan Mohamed Salem Bahron, born in Al-Zawia, nickname „The Mouse“.
  2. Maitika prison, located at Maitika airport and controlled by deterrence forces
  3. Prison of Sulayman Shah brigade, near the Maitika airport
  4. Abu Salim District Prison, led by Abdel Hamid Al-Madgout

A large number of Syrians have been imprisoned, some of them were arrested while trying to escape to Europe, while others were accused of dealing with the Egyptian intelligence. Some of them were accused of dealing with US intelligence, such as Captain Ahmed Abu Omar, who was imprisoned by deterrence forces in Maitika prison.

Disputes on Salaries

After many disputes it was decided to pay the fighters salaries as follows:

  • $1000 for the faction leader
  • $600 for the fighter
  • $300 for the people work in „non-fighting“ positions (cooks and cleaners)

Information reveals that a few days ago, units of the national army in Libya have received the monthly salary, but the highest salary did not exceed 4600 Turkish lira, which is less than half of the amount agreed upon.

It was said that the salary is not enough, led dozens of Syrians to ask for returning to Syria. Members, who belong to al-Jabha al-Shamiye and Faylaq al-Majd have already handed-over their weapons and asked to be returned to their home. It is noteworthy that three flights were arranged to go to Syria, each flight includeed 160 fighters.

According to obtained information, leaders in the National Army have appointed people called for money transporters and money changers for each faction. They transfered the remained monthly salary from the fighters to their families in Syria, receiving $20 for each money transfer.

This means that the army leaders have established money transfer offices in order to obtain money from fighters in any possible way.

Operations of smuggling drugs from Syria to Libya were carried out very broadly, where Mitiga airport seems to be a trafficking hotspot. During a scheduled transport of the Levant Front from Syria to Libya, a group of fighters was caught carrying narcotic pills inside their weapons stores. They were arrested immediately in the Turkish city of Aintab, transferred to the Syrian-Turkish border and an investigation was carried out. Operations of smuggling drugs from Syria to Libya were carried out very broadly, where the pills were transferred to Mitiga airport through the national army forces.

Description Number Notes
Total Number of Mercenaries 14650 End of December 2019, until end of June 2020
Total number of Jihadist sent by Qatar Around 350 Most of them deployed in the south
Syrian Mercenaries in Libya Around 7000 Voluntary or Compulsory return
Syrians in Libyan Prisons 160 fighters  
Escaping to EU 200 Around Or disappeared
Killed 456  
Number of injured 1800 Around More than half of them have permanent disability
Recruited Children 350 Most of them were returned

Conclusion:

Certainly, the support of the Siraj forces was one of the most important reasons that prompted the Turkish regime to plunge Syrian fighters into the Libyan war, but the main reason – according to what we observe – is forming a pro-Turkish military force deployed among the Libyan factions, which cause financial, military and security pressure on the Al-Sarraj government.

The following confirms the above-mentioned analysis:

  • The Syrian mercenary brigades have not demonstrated combat effectiveness in the ongoing battles in Libya
  • Most of the Syrian mercenaries in Libya have no combat experience
  • The gap between the Libyan and Syrian fighters has widened, and the relations between the two parties are characterized by hatred, fear and apprehension.
  • Libyans treat Syrian mercenaries badly, where groups (especially the Libyan Deterrence Forces) monitor the Syrians’ movements, arrest and kill those suspected of loyalty.
  • The Turkish regime does not hold the leaders of the Syrian factions accountable for the violations committed by their fighters in Libya against the Libyan citizens and their property, it rather pushes them to commit more violations.
  • The Turkish regime receives millions of US-dollars from the Al-Sarraj government on the pretext that it has recruited and trained Syrian mercenaries.

Moreover, the Turks have another goal, which is to get rid of the Syrian fighters from the Syrian north, as many of the displaced Syrians (especially from Damascus, Homs and Daraa) are trying to communicate with the Russians or the Syrian regime in order to return to the areas from which they were displaced.

While another group of fighters is constantly calling for the need to fight against the Assad regime forces or the Iranians instead of fighting against the SDF.

Numbers indicate that the camps in the Syrian north include no less than 150,000 people who are able to fight, most of them were born during the war and did not have the opportunity to go to school or to work.

Turks and their partners, the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar and Al-Qaeda, see in those young men a fertile environment for preparing an ignorant and directed generation of extremists, ready for war everywhere and any time for the benefit of Ottoman Turkish ambitions.

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