Syrian mercenaries wonder about fate after Libya ceasefire - the Investigative Journal
Fayez al-Sarraj, prime minister of Libya's Turkish-backed, United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), and Aguila Saleh, president of its rival eastern-based parliament, announced separate ceasefire statements on Friday.
Both called for a demilitarisation of the key city of Sirte, although the implementation details vary.
But after a number of failed ceasefires in Libya, it’s unclear whether the latest can succeed, the Investigative Journal reported on Saturday.
The announcement means an uncertain future for the estimated 10,000 Syrian National Army (SNA) mercenaries brought to Libya by Turkey as part of a military agreement with the GNA.
“Our commander told us we were done fighting,” one fighter from the Faylaq al-Majd faction of the SNA in Libya told the Investigative Journal. “I mean, it doesn’t matter to us. We haven’t been fighting for months.”
In June, GNA forces, supported by SNA militants, captured the city of Tarhuna from the rival Libyan National Army (LNA). GNA forces were set to mount an offensive on Sirte, a gateway to the country’s extensive oil reserves. Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said that Sirte was a red line and that an attempt to take the city would lead Egypt to directly intervene.
Since then, fighting in Libya has fizzled out. Faylaq al-Majd militants were shipped by the hundreds from positions around Tripoli to a Turkish base in Misrata.
There have been widespread reports of looting by Syrian mercenaries in Libya, which the mercenaries themselves confirm. “All of us have been looting since [the Turkish attack on and subsequent occupation of the Syrian city of] Afrin,” the the Faylaq al-Majd fighter told the Investigative Journal. “And here, they haven’t paid us what they promised, so it’s a good way to make more money.”
SNA fighters were promised salaries of around $2,000 a month to go to Libya. The Investigative journal said that dozens of Syrians in Libya, that they had interviewed reported that they had been paid far less. Some said they’d been in Libya for more than five months and received a single payment.
The parties reportedly reached an agreement to increase the Syrian mercenaries' pay by 30 percent.
A militant stationed in Ain Zara told the Investigative Journal that a payment increase seemed unlikely.
“It’s just talk,” he said. “Our commanders always tell us we’ll be paid soon, we’ll be paid what they owe, but it doesn’t happen. They might have said they would pay more because they thought they would need us for attacking Sirte, but what do they need us for now?”