There is enthusiasm among Syrian mercenaries backed and paid by Turkey to travel to Libya. Some of these mercenaries have already arrived in the North African state to prop up the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA). Nevertheless, there is, it seems, another reason for the enthusiasm of the Syrian hirelings.
Libyan National Army (LNA) Spokesman, Brigadier General Ahmed al-Mesmari, revealed this reason on January 19. Al-Mesmari, whose army has started a fresh offensive to take hold of the Libyan capital from the militias operating under the GNA, said the Syrian mercenaries are in Libya to enter Europe after crossing the Mediterranean. About 41 Syrian mercenaries, he said, have already left the Libyan coast on the road to Italy. “Other mercenaries prepare to leave for Italy in the coming days,” al-Mesmari added.
Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is throwing his full weight behind the GNA for ideological, economic, and strategic reasons. The GNA is mainly made up of Islamist figures, including from the Muslim Brotherhood, and its future matters greatly to Mr. Erdogan, a principal sponsor of political Islam in the Middle East and Africa.
The Turkish president also wants to put his country at the center of the newly found natural gas wealth in the region, even as Turkey has not made any discoveries off its coast or in its territorial waters.
The maritime boundary delimitation memo signed by Erdogan and GNA Prime Minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, gives Turkey access to a larger section of the Mediterranean waters.
It also, Erdogan said, makes it necessary for other Eastern Mediterranean nations to take Turkey’s approval before exploring minerals or extending pipelines in the region.
These are points that open the door wide for war, especially with the countries of the region viewing these Turkish moves as “state piracy” that threatens to encroach on their rights, especially those of Cyprus.
Turkish involvement in Libya also threatens to stoke the tension in the restive country which has descended into lawlessness since the downfall of the Muammar Gaddafi regime in 2011, especially with Turkey sending arms and fighters to Tripoli.
This brings fears to European capitals where decision-makers have voiced concern at Turkish interference in Libya.
Apart from fearing from increased violence in Libya and the possibility of war in the Mediterranean, Europe also shudders at the prospect of an influx of refugees and migrants from the Libyan inferno.
Terrorists on the way
Nevertheless, few in Europe probably imagine that these migrants will include the hired soldiers Mr. Erdogan is sending to Libya. Earlier this month, the troops of the Interior Ministry of the interim Libyan government arrested a Syrian mercenary who was trying to sneak into the coastal city of Sabratha, about 70 kilometers west of Tripoli.
Anas Deeb Fatout, 36, told investigators that he wanted to enter Sabratha in preparation for leaving for Europe.
Most of those coming to Libya from Syria were part of Mr. Erdogan’s offensive against Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria. The Turkish leader launched the offensive on October 9, 2019, intending to clear the border area with Syria from the Kurds, especially after American troops withdrew from the same area.
Those coming from Syria to Libya are, however, among the most radical, which should ring the alarm in Europe, al-Mesmari said. Lieutenant General Khaled al-Mahjoub, another senior officer of the LNA, revealed that smuggling rings have already started preparing to help the mercenaries coming from Syria to travel to Europe.
“Sorry to say, those who will be boarding illegal immigration boats in the Mediterranean from the Libyan coast on the road to Europe include former Islamic State terrorists,” al-Mahjoub said.