Tripoli says no radical Syrian fighters among ranks
Libya’s U.N.-recognised government on Wednesday denied international media reports that said Turkey had been sending extremist Syrian rebel groups to Tripoli to fight against General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
“The claim that radical Syrian fighters rank among the Government of National Accord (GNA) forces, which is defending the capital Tripoli against Haftar, is far from reality," Abdul-Malik al Madani, the spokesman for the Burkan Al-Ghadab (Volcano of Rage) Operation launched by the GNA in April, told Anadolu.
Turkey has upped its support of the GNA since Haftar’s forces began a military assault on Tripoli in April last year.
Citing two Libyan militia leaders and a group that monitors the Syrian war, the Associated Press said on Wednesday that Turkey had sent Syrian fighters affiliated with extreme jihadists groups such as al Qaeda and Islamic State to Libya to fight on behalf of the GNA.
Turkey has brought more than 4,000 Syrian rebels into Tripoli, and dozens of them are linked to extremist groups, two Libyan militia leaders speaking on the condition of anonymity told the AP.
But Madani told Anadolu that Turkey had only sent military experts and that they were not involved in the conflict in Tripoli. The spokesman said only the units subordinated to the Libyan army and Libyan people were fighting in the GNA ranks.
The Turkish parliament in January authorised the deployment of military personnel and equipment to help the Tripoli government, in accordance with a military cooperation deal signed between Ankara and the GNA in November.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a television interview last month that Turkey would deploy a different kind of combat force in Libya.
“They are not among our soldiers. Those different teams will work with combat forces there. But our high-ranking soldiers will coordinate,” he said.