Exclusive testimony | Defector from “Al-Amshat” faction says that nearly $150,000 stolen by “Abu Amsha” from mercenaries’ salaries he sent to Azerbaijan
Mohammed al-Jassim, or “Abu Amsha”, commander of the “Sultan Suleiman Shah” Division, which controls some areas in northern Aleppo countryside. The area of “al-Sheikh Hadid” in the countryside of Afrin is the main stronghold of the Division. “Abu Amsha” was one of the most prominent officials in the process of sending Syrian fighters as mercenaries to both Libya and Azerbaijan, in coordination with and directed by the Turkish intelligence.
SOHR has interviewed a defector of the faction “Sultan Suleiman Shah Division.” The testimony shows a fraud by the commander of “Al-Amshat”, as more than 1,000 fighters were defrauded, who have been recently sent to fight in Azerbaijan with decent salaries, where nearly 12 million Turkish liras were stolen, equivalent to 143 thousand U.S. dollars, of their salaries promised by the commander “Abu Amsha.”
The 23-year-old young man known by his initial as (A.A.), who recently defected from this faction on October 10, 2020, speaks to SOHR about details of this case: “We, about 1000 fighters, set off from the Hawar Killis area to the Turkish city Gaziantep by military buses, around 10:00 pm Damascus time. Before the departure, Mohammed al-Jassim “Abu Amsha” delivered a speech urging us to fight in Azerbaijan, speaking in his colloquial accent ‘I promise you that your salaries will be $2,000 per month.’ Then we set off again from Gaziantep to the Turkish capital Ankara via an Ilyushin transport plane and from there we were transported to Azerbaijan by Turkish transport plane.
As soon as we got there, and after one night the battles against the Armenian army began, in which we participated and we were supervised by military commanders of the “National Army.” The battles lasted for two months.
The clashes sometimes was stopping and then we return to clash with the Armenian army. All the fighters of approximately 1,000 fighters are Syrians, mostly displaced from areas such as Damascus countryside, Homs, Daraa, Aleppo countryside, Hama and Idlib.
Dozens of fighters were killed in the battles, and dozens, if not hundreds, were injured. And for our salaries that Abu Amsha promised to pay them in full, amounting to approximately 28,000 Turkish liras per member, of which 4,000 went to the military commander who accompanied us to fight there, and each member was paid 12,000 Turkish lira, while 12 thousand more remained to be paid to each member, which they promised us to pay it after a month, under the pretext of having financial matters with the Turkish side.
After the end of the month, we demanded our rights and our financial dues, but to no avail. None of us are even allowed to meet Abu Amsha, who defrauded all of us, where the total amount he stole is more than 12 million Turkish liras.
I’m currently a defector from the Sultan Suleiman Shah Division led by this person, whom I consider to be a criminal, as he took advantage of our poor living conditions and took us to death for little pay, after stealing almost a month’s salary from every member.
What makes it more difficult for us to have our rights is that no authority can force him to pay the rights of more than 1,000 members, because of his strong relationship with Turkish intelligence.
It is worth noting SOHR sources had reported that discontent was growing as Turkish-backed factions’ leaders, who directly managed by Turkish intelligence, continued defrauding their members.
On January 14, Reliable sources told the Syrian Observatory that a new batch of the Turkish-backed Syrian mercenaries returned from Libya to Syria in the past few days. This batch is the first one to return from Libya to Syria in two months, exactly since mid-November 2020.
It is worth noting that the return of this batch, which comprised 40 fighters, was not normal, especially with the ongoing suspension of return of mercenaries from Libya to Syria. According to SOHR sources, these fighters had paid bribes of an estimated 500 USD each to doctors in Libya in return for writing reports stating that their health conditions were poor and that they had to return to Syria. The mercenaries later provided these reports to their commanders in order to permit their return to Syria, before they were transported to Turkey then to Syria.
SOHR sources have confirmed that the mercenaries recently returned have got only a quarter of allocated monthly salaries, as each fighter was given only 500 USD every month instead of 2000 USD. Moreover, these fighters have not been paid any salaries for more than five months.