Turkey tells Syrian rebels they will fight Russians in Libya – report

To boost motivation, Turkey is telling Syrian rebels it is sending to Libya they will fight Russians, the Investigative Journal said on Wednesday, citing sources in Turkish-backed Syrian National Army. 

“There are Russians here,” said a 21-year-old Syrian mercenary from Kafr Nabl, a town in Syria’s Idlib province. “The Turks confirmed this to us. I wouldn’t even hurt a Libyan here. But if I find a Russian, I will put a stick up his ass.”

The Syrian fighter told the Investigative Journal that he had not seen much fighting so far, but was promised that a major offensive would start soon. “With the help of the Turkish forces and their equipment, we will defeat the Russians,” he said.

“Of course, there are no Russian soldiers there. If the Turks tell them there are Russian troops in Libya, and that the [Syrian rebels] will get to fight them, they believe they are fighting the same enemy that is destroying their cities in Syria,” another SNA source in Idlib told the Investigative Journal. “But of course, this is a lie, and Libya is not Syria. But these mercenaries believe whatever Turkey tells them.”

Turkey rebranded Syrian rebel factions formerly known as Free Syrian Army as the SNA last year, before launching a military offensive in northern Syria in October.

The Turkish government backs the U.N.-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, which has been trying to fend off an assault by General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), a self-styled government that controls much of eastern and southern Libya.

Turkey started sending military personnel to Libya, after the Turkish parliament granted authorisation in early January.

Turkish officials say Turkey has only been sending military staff to train Libyan police and troops, but international media has reported the arrival of Turkish-backed Syrian rebels to fight alongside GNA forces.

Some 4,700 Turkey-backed Syrian mercenaries have arrived to fight for the Tripoli government,  Rami Abdurrahman, the head of the Britain-based monitoring network, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told the Associated Press on Wednesday. 

The United Arab Emirates and Egypt, Turkey’s regional rivals in the Middle East, back Haftar in Libya. The LNA also has the support of some Russian mercenaries of a Kremlin-linked private contractor, the Wagner group.