Air, Land Bridge to Transport Syrian Fighters from Turkey to Libya
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed for the first time in February that Ankara has sent allied Syrian fighters to Libya alongside its own training teams to bolster the militias backing the Government of National Accord in Tripoli.
“Turkey is there with a training force. There are also people from the Syrian National Army,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul.
A security and military Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the GNA and Turkey in November last year includes bilateral cooperation in the military and security fields.
It includes clauses on military training, counter-terrorism and illegal migration.
Italy’s Itamilradar, which specializes in monitoring military aircraft movements over Italy and the Mediterranean Sea, has tracked warplanes and ships heading from Turkey to Libya.
Its coordinates have shown that Ankara has secured an “air bridge” to transport weapons and fighters to Tripoli and Misrata.
In the past two weeks alone, 11 military cargo planes were detected heading from Istanbul and Konya to both cities in Libya and returning back to Turkey.
The Turkish Defense Ministry in late February claimed carrying out maneuvers in the Mediterranean Sea after reports about the transfer of weapons and fighters to Libya in military and commercial warships backed by Turkey.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has also repeatedly said that more than 10,000 Syrian mercenaries have arrived in Libya to fight alongside the GNA’s forces.
Although Turkey claims that its forces are only providing consultations to the GNA, Erdogan has used the excuse of foreign fighters backing the Libyan the National Army (LNA) to send Syrian mercenaries to Libya.
In February, he accused Russia of sending 2,500 mercenaries from the Kremlin-linked Wagner group.
There are an additional 15,000 fighters from Sudan, Chad and other countries, said Erdogan.