Turkey sends Yemeni mercenaries to war in Libya

In total, Ankara has deployed more than 15,000 Syrian fighters to the North African country to support the GNA
GNA fighters in the Salah-addin district of Tripoli, Libya

AP/RICARD GARCIA  -   GNA fighters in the Salah-addin district of Tripoli, Libya

Up to 200 mercenaries from Yemen have arrived in Libya to fight on the side of the UN-sponsored Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj. This has been revealed by military and intelligence sources consulted in the Middle East Monitor. Yemen News Portal, which is dedicated to the Hutu militia, reported that the militia belong to the Islah Party delegation in Marib, linked to the Islamist organization of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Asian country. According to the media, "the fighters were sent to Turkey under the guise of receiving hospital treatment, from where they were transferred to the Libyan capital Tripoli".  

It should also be noted that the presence of Yemeni mercenaries in the North African country is not new. According to the same sources, the rival faction, the National Liberation Army (LNA), headed by General Khalifa Haftar, have already captured a number of Yemeni mercenaries fighting in the ranks of the GNA.

According to the Middle East Monitor, "the Islah Party is trying to forge a military alliance with Turkey by sending fighters alongside it in Libya, amid increasing reports of a possible future Turkish intervention in Yemen, in particular against UAE-backed militia", a Gulf country that has shown its support for the Yemeni Southern Transitional Council (STC), one of the three actors involved in the war in Yemen, along with the government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi and the Hutus.

In addition, a "covert" agreement has recently been revealed in which Turkey, Iran and Qatar would be working with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Houthis to "share areas of influence in Yemen," according to The Arab Weekly, a report that has been confirmed by the French media Intelligence Online. Within the framework of this pact, the Houthi militia - backed by Tehran - would control the north of the country "in exchange for supporting the Brotherhood's ambitions to acquire the southern regions", where it would have Turkish and Qatari support. 

In this line, Ankara has been engaged in a conflict with Abu Dhabi over the Yemeni archipelago of Socotra, a geostrategic enclave considered as "the gateway" for any invasion of the country. Turkey wants to maintain the influence of the Brotherhood in that territory, which would allow it rapid access to the rest of Yemen; while the UAE seeks to protect the Archipelago from Turkey's ambitions and, to that end, has subjected it to its "full sovereignty", as reported recently by a Yemeni government official, who has also accused the Gulf country of "attempting to separate the province from Yemen and establish military bases in the coming period under the pretext of protecting it from Turkey and Qatar".

Un soldado del LNA escolta a un prisionero capturado que supuestamente forma parte de los mercenarios de Siria traídos por Turquía, el 5 de mayo de 2020
AFP/ABDULLAH DOMA - An LNA soldier escorts a captured prisoner who is allegedly part of the Syrian mercenaries brought by Turkey, 5 May 2020
15,000 Syrian mercenaries in Libya

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has revealed that more than 15,100 mercenaries have been sent by Turkey to fight the civil war in Libya on the side of the GNA. Among them, about 300 children between 16 and 18 years old, mostly belonging to the Al-Sultan Murad division, who were allegedly recruited "by offering material incentives, exploiting their difficult living situation and poverty". 

"Syrian Observatory continues monitoring and tracking Turkey’s transfer of Syrian mercenaries to Libya. New batches of Turkish-backed mercenaries were sent to Libya in the past few days, along with the return of others to Syria" the London-based organization reported. In particular, it has recorded the return to Bachar al-Asad's country of 3,200 militiamen, who had already completed their mission in Libya - their contract had expired - and had therefore received "all financial dues after helping the “Government of National Accord” to achieve strategic advances in Libya" in the North African nation, against the rival faction, the LNA. 

The SOHR has also documented at least 400 other fighters sent by Ankara have left the war in Libya and fled to Europe, entering through smuggling methods such as infiltration into migrant boats off the Italian coast.  

Similarly, the organisation has reported 432 deaths of Syrian mercenaries during clashes with the LNA, 30 of whom were under 18, and some of the group's commanders.  

The Libyan civil war, which broke out in 2011 after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, has recently been internationalized with the entry of international powers to support either side. While Turkey, Qatar and Italy - and the Muslim Brotherhood - defend the GNA, Egypt, France, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and even Russia have opted for the LNA. The United States, on the other hand, has taken an ambiguous position so far.  

Both sides accuse each other of straining the war by using mercenaries, something rejected by international law and also by the UN, which imposed an arms embargo on the country almost a decade ago. In the last week, the GNA has denounced the presence of Russian militiamen, from the Wagner Group, a private security company backed by the Kremlin, in Libya's largest oil field, Sharara, to protect it from the advance of Sarraj's troops. In fact, Tripoli's representative to the UN has called on the European Union and the United States to "impose sanctions over the activities of Russian mercenaries and other actors involved in the conflict in the North African country." On Tuesday it was also revealed that the Sudanese authorities have arrested at least 122 people, including eight minors, who were on their way to Libya to fight on the side of the LNA. According to the Sudan news agency SUNA, 72 of those arrested belonged to the Sudanese Revolutionary Awakening Council, an armed group led by former militia leader Janjaweed Musa Hilal. Khartoum, like Moscow, has denied any involvement in the Libyan conflict.