What do we know about the Syrian fighters in Libya?

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Following Turkey’s announcement to support the Government of National Accord (GNA) in its fight against the Libyan National Army (LNA), in late 2019, Ankara took serious and swift steps, to organize their forces in Syria, and throw its weight behind the GNA .

A series of intensive meetings were held in the cities of Gaziantep, Ankara and Şanlıurfa, between Turkish military officials and Syrian National Army (SNA) commanders. The SNA was asked to send lists of names for recruits to participate in the war in Libya.

The SNA itself, is a patchwork of various Syrian militias that have been brought together by Turkey, a number of whom refused to send their fighters to Libya, such as: the Army of Islam, the Al-Rahman Legion, Faylaq Al-Raḥman, and Ahrar Al-Sharqiya. While the following armed groups have joined the conflict in Libya: Sultan Murad, Suleiman Shah, Liwa Al-Fateh, Al-Hamza, Al-Mu’tasim Legion of the Levant, and Jabhat Al-Shamiyah. As well as a notable number of Turkmen Brigades.

The number of fighters that are currently believed to be in Libya are around 5,300, with a further 2,000 being trained in the Afrin region of Syria and inside Turkish territory. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, has claimed that the fighters receive a lucrative salary of between $1,500-$2,000 per month, much higher than they would receive fighting in Syria. Muaz Rahhal, a resident of Kafr Nabudah, Brigadier Fateh Hassoun, Hamza Polat and Fahim Issa are thought to be responsible for recruiting the fighters and sending them to Libya.

The introduction of Syrian fighters has not gone unnoticed by the Libyan National Army (LNA), with various videos surfacing of captured Syrians being interviewed. The videos show alleged Syrians claiming that they have not received their financial dues, and are suffering losses in the conflict in Libya. Fighters that are killed and wounded during the conflict are returned to Syria via Turkey.

The front lines of Ain Zara, Al-Hadba and Abu Salim in Tripoli, are where the majority of Syrian fighters are believed to be stationed, although reports show they have participated in the recent fighting in the city of Tarhuna.