Turkish fighters deepen Libyan crisis
Russia has accused Turkey of deploying mercenaries in Libya as the country falls into a protracted proxy war orchestrated from Ankara, Moscow and the Gulf states.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and Libyan foreign minister in the rebel government, Abdulhadi Lahweej, claimed the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli was using oil revenue to pay for thousands of mercenaries from Syria.
Turkey and the GNA in late last year signed an extensive agreement, which led Turkey to deploy its military advisors and Syrian fighters.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week: “Turkey is there with a training force. There are also people from the Syrian National Army.” It is a grouping of anti-Syrian government militants previously known as the Free Syrian Army.
The rebel Libyan National Army (LNA) has recruited Russia’s Wagner private security group, including snipers. Captain Mohammed Mukhtar of the GNA said: “They bring Janjaweed [Sudanese militias] and Russians to kill their Libyan brothers. Why do they do that?”
The United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia back the LNA along with political support from France.
Meanwhile, Turkey has stepped up support for the GNA in Tripoli.
Diplomats have warned of a wider, proxy war across the Sahel and North Africa.
Turkey is increasingly viewed in the UAE, Egypt and Russia as a destabilising force in the region and supportive of extremist movements.
“The problem is not Libyan,” said Fathi Bashagha, the GNA’s interior minister. “It’s 20 per cent Libyan and we can solve this; 80 per cent is from the outside countries involved in Libya.
“Haftar cannot stop the war because his project is to rule by tank and artillery,” said Bashagha. “This is a big investment for Haftar and the Emirates. It’s impossible for them to stop the war.”
At least 2,000 people have been killed and more than 150,000 displaced since the LNA attacked Tripoli last April.
The momentum shifted last month when Turkey deployed troops against the Russian mercenaries and air superiority offered by Chinese drones, which were allegedly being operated by the UAE.
Turkey has supplied US-made Hawk air defence systems that appear to have nullified the drones.
Syrian Turkmen militias have arrived since December. A foreign diplomat estimated that there were around 3,000 Syrian fighters in Libya.
Last week, the GNA suspended talks after Haftar’s troops shelled Tripoli’s only operating airport, leaving three dead.
Picture credit: YouTube