LIBYA: Turkish-backed Islamist mercenaries deaths on the increase

Libya – The death toll of Turkish-backed Islamist mercenaries is on the increase. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stated that more than hundred of the Turkish-send Islamist mercenaries were killed on several fronts and occasions within Libya after confrontations with the forces of Khalifa Haftar; in the Salah el-Din neighborhood, south of Tripoli, at Ramla near the airport of Tripoli, at the Hadaba project and other areas in Libya.

The death toll of the pro-Turkish Syrian Islamist mercenaries on the different fronts in Libya increased to 107. The Syrian Islamist mercenaries are members of the factions of the Al-Mu’tasim Brigade, Sultan Murad Brigade, Falcons of the North Brigade and Suleiman Shah Brigade, as reported by The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in earlier reports stated that the number of Turkish-backed Islamist mercenaries who arrived in the capital Tripoli so far has increased to around 4.750. Whereas, the number of new mercenary recruits who arrived in Turkish camps to receive training has increased to about 1.900 recruits. In previous statements President Erdogan said that his country is fighting the unlawful forces of the Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Haftar, where he also pointed to deaths on the Turkish side.

However, the general opinion in the media is that the Turkish President Erdogan is executing a geopolitical expansion policy around the Mediterranean and in Syria and Iraq to become a regional power player.

Last year President Erdogan wanted to send Turkish troops to Libya, at the invite of the Tripoli government, but after internal criticism decided to send the Islamist mercenaries it trained and backed for the Syrian war instead to Libya.

In January the Tripoli government and Turkey signed a maritime border delineation deal allowing Turkey to use Libya’s exclusive economic maritime zones. The deal helps support Turkish claims to transnational gas exploration and pipeline construction in the Mediterranean, especially off the coast of Cyprus.

Another reason for Turkey’s adventures abroad are the economic downturn and millions of Syrian and other refugees which Turkey took in over the last couple of years. Both have led to criticism of the AKP government, break-away AKP parliamentarians and (ex)ministers and President Erdogans popularity and electoral base is diminishing.

Turkey’s expansion drift however comes at a cost for civilians. In its geopolitical self-assertion Turkey is ignorant of the displacement, destruction and death it causes in e.g. Idlib and North and East Syria.

Many Turkish-backed Syrian militants have, after receiving extensive training in Turkish training camps, also headed to Europe. According to the Syrian Observatory (SOHR), the number of pro-Turkish Syrian Islamist militants heading to Europe numbered about 105.