Turkey-backed Syrian rebels being sent to join Libya fighting

Turkey-backed Syrian rebels being sent to join Libya fighting
Fighters loyal to the Tripoli administration run for cover during clashes with forces loyal to eastern commander Gen. Khalifa Haftar south of Tripoli. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 28 December 2019

Turkey-backed Syrian rebels being sent to join Libya fighting

Turkey-backed Syrian rebels being sent to join Libya fighting
  • Recruitment centers in Aleppo offering young men salary of up to $2,000 for fighting

ANKARA: Turkey-backed Syrian rebels will be dispatched to support Libya’s government in its fight against veteran commander Khalifa Haftar, according to press reports.

The fighters have close ties to Turkey and will mainly be those who have fought alongside it in Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said earlier this week that Parliament would vote in early January on a motion to send troops to Libya.

The parliamentary vote is a continuation of Ankara’s recent commitments to support the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) through a security and military cooperation deal, and an agreement to delimit maritime borders.

Sultan Murad Division, Suqour Al-Sham Brigades and Faylaq Al-Sham are reported to be among the armed groups destined for Libya, but the Syrian Interim Government has denied any possibility of sending troops who have fought government forces during the civil war.

But deploying fighters from such groups can be done immediately, without the need for a parliamentary green light.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Turkey-backed Syrian rebels had opened recruitment centers in Aleppo for dispatching young men to western Libya with a monthly salary of up to $2,000, while Russian media said Turkey had already sent 7,000 fighters to the north African nation.

“If the war’s impact was nightmarish before, it’ll be even worse now if this is confirmed,” tweeted Emadeddin Badi, a Libya analyst with the Middle East Institute. “TFSA/Turkmen Syrian with Sultan Murad have been responsible for some horrendous war crimes against Kurds in Northern Syria (as part of Turkey’s offensive). Their deployment in Libya might halt Haftar’s offensive; but at what price? This was an entirely avoidable outcome.” 

FASTFACTS

• There are several risks for a Turkish presence in the region, and not only diplomatic ones.

• It is unclear how the process of moving Turkey’s Syria assets to Libya will develop in the coming days ahead of a Jan. 8 meeting between Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

There are several risks for a Turkish presence in the region, and not only diplomatic ones. Eastern Libyan forces last week intercepted a Turkish ship bound for the western Libyan port of Misrata.

Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat who chairs the Istanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, said Turkey was moving to limit potential Turkish casualties.

“The government has declared that the objective of Turkish support will be in an advisory capacity and therefore Turkey does not want to have its troops to be involved directly in the fighting,” he told Arab News. “But given the situation on the ground in Libya, the Tripoli government is under pressure and therefore there is a need for more boots on the ground.

Ankara was calculating that support would be available for Tripoli in the form of some foreign fighters and Turkish personnel as advisers or deployed for targeted special operations, Ulgen added.

“The Turkish move will certainly lead to a new reprisal by the countries supporting Haftar, particularly Egypt. There is a risk that, in reaction to Turkey’s more overt military engagement, other countries will also increase their military support to the Haftar side, and it might be an escalation of the conflict.”

It is unclear how the process of moving Turkey’s Syria assets to Libya will develop in the coming days ahead of a Jan. 8 meeting between Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia is against any interference in Libya’s internal affairs by an outsider, the Russian president’s press secretary told reporters earlier this week, although it welcomed attempts to resolve the crisis there.

Ben Fishman, a senior fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said it would be a huge mistake to counter one mercenary force with another.

“If Turkey wants to assist the GNA it should do so first with diplomacy and, if necessary, with a contingent of Turkish forces that could serve as a deterrent,” he told Arab News.


Egypt seeks to free citizens kidnapped by pirates off Nigerian coast

Updated 27 min 43 sec ago

Egypt seeks to free citizens kidnapped by pirates off Nigerian coast

Egypt seeks to free citizens kidnapped by pirates off Nigerian coast
  • Maria Samir, Samir’s sister, said her brother was last contacted as he was about to move from Nigeria to Cameroon

CAIRO: Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said it was coordinating with Nigerian authorities to free two of its citizens after they were kidnapped by pirates.

According to media reports, Saad Shawky and Kyrolos Samir were taken while they were on board a cargo ship off the coast of Nigeria’s southernmost state of Bayelsa.

There are also three Lebanese, four Indians and a Cameroonian in the crew.

The ministry said it had contacted the Egyptian consulate in Abuja about the circumstances and with the latest updates, and that instructions had been issued “to communicate with all officials at the highest level to follow up on ensuring the safety of kidnapped Egyptians.”

Egyptian media reported the two men were on board a Lebanese cargo ship called “Milan-1” that was heading from Nigeria to Cameroon. They also said the ship was owned by a Lebanese national, Adnan El-Kot.

El-Kot said in statements that he had rented the ship to a man called Tavo Lawrence and that the vessel was raising the flag of Saint Kitts. He learned about the kidnapping last Thursday, receiving a call from a Thuraya mobile phone from the pirates who demanded a $1.5 million ransom to release the ship.

The ransom dropped to $300,000, and El-Kot explained that he had told the kidnappers that the ship had been rented to another person living in Nigeria after he made sure all the ship crew were safe.

Maria Samir, Samir’s sister, said her brother was last contacted as he was about to move from Nigeria to Cameroon.

She said in an interview that contact with him was lost a few hours after he moved from Nigeria, adding that it naturally happened due to being in the open seas. She was following up the ship’s route through an app that revealed the vessel had stopped in the middle of the sea and did not move.

She said her brother graduated from university a year ago and that it was his first job for six months. She added he was working on a ship on the Red Sea route and moved to work on board “Milan-1.”

Sherouk Shawky, who is Shawky’s sister, said: “My brother and his colleague Kyrolos Samir have been working together onboard the ship for two years and a half.”

She said her brother left Nigeria en route to Cameroon and they had last contacted each other last Wednesday.

She added: “By Saturday, as he didn't contact us, we became extremely worried about him since the route from Nigeria to Cameroon is only two days. So we contacted Adnan El-Kot, the ship owner, who told us that pirates from Nigeria kidnapped the ship's 10-member crew, which includes officers, engineers and cooks. He said the pirates kidnapped 10 crew members and left one to inform Adnan of the kidnapping.”