Report: Syrian Mercenaries in Libya Fight Alongside State-Funded Militias

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The human rights organization, Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ), reported that Syrian mercenaries partook in looting and transforming civilian properties into military centres, cooperating with the notorious state-funded militia of the Stability Support Apparatus (SSA).

Over two and a half years ago, several sides started deploying Syrian fighters to Libya to join combat as mercenaries besides the two warring parties. According to the STJ, the current number of these recruits amounts to nearly 3000 mercenaries.

The STJ claimed that the Turkish-backed mercenaries in Libya have been engaging in a variety of violations against Libyan civilians within their operation areas, especially in the capital of Tripoli.

“The continued presence of mercenaries is at odds with United Nations’ (UN) calls to withdraw all foreign forces from Libya and repeated emphasis that such presence poses a grave threat to Libya’s fragile peace and stability and risks furthering insecurity in the region,” the Panel of Experts on Libya told the UN Security Council on a letter dated May 24th.

The Syrian mercenaries in Libya carried out large-scale lootings of civilian houses, robbing their contents, including cash, gold, and furniture.

They converted several of the houses into military centres and housing units, while they vandalised and damaged others, coerced owners to abandon their properties, and seized them. The mercenaries participated in clashes with Libyan armed groups in marketplaces crowded with civilians, stormed civilian institutions, and threatened employees there for money.

The Syrian fighters partook in these violations alongside three major local armed groups, notably the SSA militia, Al-Nawasi Brigade, and Brigade 444.

The STJ said it spoke to three fighters stationed in different Tripoli neighbourhoods serving within different military groups. Each of the sources provided examples of the violations recently committed by the groups they are affiliated with.

“Fighters started joining the ranks of armed Libyan groups after our salaries were deducted and delayed. Several fighters are paid monthly salaries by these groups and bonuses. They perform tasks such as armed robberies and partaking in clashes against other Libyan armed groups,” a mercenary told the STJ.

Amnesty International documented the SSA’s responsibility for unlawful killings, arbitrary detentions, interception and subsequent arbitrary detention of migrants and refugees, torture, forced labour, and other shocking human rights violations and crimes under international law.

The second source, who is a fighter within the ranks of the Sultan Murad Division, said that 35 Syrian fighters have joined the Al-Nawasi Brigade, led by Mustafa Qaddour. These fighters participated in attempted shop seizures and a marketplace shooting.

The third source is a fighter with the Suleiman Shah Brigade. He said that he joined Libyan forces several times as they disengaged clashing Libyan armed groups. He noted that there were Syrian fighters among these groups.