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TURKEY was accused of sending thousands of more jihadist mercenaries to support the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya yesterday, just two days after a Berlin peace conference.
Battle continued to rage between the country’s parallel governments, the Tripoli-based GNA and General Khalifa Haftar’s Benghazi-based Libyan National Army.
At least 28 of the mercenaries sent by Turkey were killed in the skirmishes in what was described as a “humiliating defeat” for the GNA and Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.
They were killed outside the Salah el-Din neighbourhood south of Tripoli, close to the international airport.
Seventeen of the Turkish-backed fighters arrived in Italy yesterday on their way to Libya where it is expected they will join almost 2,000 jihadists who were transferred to the country from Syria.
Ankara is reportedly planning to send 6,000 fighters to Libya, with around 1,790 recruits currently receiving training in the south of Turkey ahead of deployment.
Mercenaries enlisting in the Turkish operation are from the battlefields in Afrin, northern Syria, where they have been involved in fighting Kurdish forces as part of what has been described as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “ethnic cleansing operation.”
Many of those recruited come from jihadist factions including the al-Mu’tasim Brigade, Sultan Murad Brigade, Northern Falcons Brigade, Hamzat, Legion of the Levant, Suleiman Shah and the Samarkand Brigade.
It is understood that the fighters are paid more than £1,000 per month and are hired on six-month contracts directly by the GNA. They have also been offered Turkish nationality.
One LNA fighter spoke to the Star from the front line and said that the presence of jihadists is “why we are fighting and we are allowing Libya to become Kurdistan part II.”
LNA commander Major General Salem Driaq said: “The army has not abandoned the idea of entering the capital Tripoli and the city of Misurata, to complete its mission to eliminate armed militias and terrorist groups that have invaded Libya.”
The Turkish operations come just days after a so-called peace conference in the German capital Berlin which agreed to uphold the UN arms embargo.
World leaders from 16 countries signed an agreement as UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres urged world powers to “refrain from interference” in the conflict.
The same powers bear responsibility for the quagmire in Libya which descended into chaos after a Nato-backed bombing campaign and the killing of Muammar Gadaffi in October 2011.
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