Libya’s neighbours, including Tunisia, are on high alert in light of the influx of thousands of fighters from Syria to Libya.
A report published by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) on Saturday, claimed that 10,000 fighters, of which 2,500 are Tunisian nationals, had arrived in Libya. They have been sent by Turkey to fight on behalf of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA).
In statements to Sky News Arabia, the Director of the Libyan Africa News Portal, Mohamed Bateeb, believed that Turkey wants to get rid of these extremist fighters by sending them to Libya. This would secure the border areas between Syria, and Turkey, and provide suitable fighters instead of Turkish soldiers.
Tunisian Defence Minister, Imad Hazgui, announced that Tunisia was on high alert after monitoring an increase in the number of attempts by these fighters, to enter the country. In press statements on July 18th, Hazgui said that concerns were raised regarding the Tunisian border, given the conflict in Libya.
“The danger of these groups may not seem very clear today to both Tunisia and Algeria, but given the return from battles, the fighters will find a way to infiltrate the Tunisian, and Algerian borders,” said Bateeb.
A report by the United Nations Group of Experts published in July 2015, revealed the presence of more than 5,000 Tunisians in various conflicts around the world.
Hadi Ahmed, a Tunisian researcher of Islamic groups, believes that the presence of foreign fighters, especially Tunisians, will constitute a security problem for Tunisia. “It seems that Turkey is seeking to flood Libya with foreign fighters, not only to support the GNA forces but also to achieve other strategic dimensions”, he said.
Bateeb claimed that these terrorist groups can be used as leverage by Ankara, against not only Tunisia, and Algeria, but also Europe. “The presence of thousands of trained extremists and pro-Turkish fighters is one of the most crucial weapons that Turkey can employ. This is to serve its strategic calculations in the region”.
This influx has prompted the European Union to launch a naval operation in the Mediterranean named ‘IRINI’. This is to prevent violations of the UN arms embargo imposed on Libya, and prevent the transportation of mercenaries.