THE SYRIAN Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) says Turkey has so far sent more than 4,500 allied Takfiri terrorists from Syria to Libya, after the Turkish parliament passed a bill earlier this year to allow the government to deploy forces to the North African country to intervene in the ongoing war.
The London-based war SOHR monitor, citing ‘informed sources requesting anonymity’, reported on Saturday that the number of Turkish-backed militants, currently in the Libyan capital city of Tripoli now stands at some 4,750.
The SOHR added that nearly 1,900 Takfiris are currently receiving military training in Turkey in order to be sent to Libya.
Russia also says Turkey is helping foreign militants cross into Libya, where rebel forces are attempting to unseat the western-backed government.
Sources report that Turkey is recruiting young extremists in the predominantly Kurdish town of Afrin and other Turkish-controlled areas of northern Syria for the same purpose, emphasising that they are members of the Mu’tasim Division, Sultan Murad, Northern Falcons Brigade, al-Hamzat, the Sham Legion, Suleyman Shah and Samarkand Brigade militant groups.
They underlined that 117 Syrian militants, who joined the ranks of Turkey’s military operations in Libya, have been killed there.
Forces loyal to Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar say they have killed 16 Turkish soldiers in recent weeks amid the ongoing violence in the North African country.
The SOHR observatory also said that Takfiris were killed in clashes in the Salah al-Din district south of Tripoli, al-Ramlah area near Tripoli’s Mitiga International Airport and Hadaba project area in southern Tripoli.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has, for the first time, confirmed the presence of pro-Turkish Syrian militants in Libya.
Reports also say that some 150 Takfiri militants who were sent to Libya have managed to sneak into Europe.
Meanwhile, Haftar’s forces in Libya claim they have destroyed a Turkish cargo ship carrying arms and ammunition at the port of tripoli.
Libya plunged into chaos in 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi and his execution by western-backed ‘unruly’ fighters.
The North African country has since been split between the two rival administrations based in the east and west amid a conflict drawing increasing involvement from foreign powers.
According to the latest UN tally, more than 280 civilians and roughly 2,000 fighters have been killed since Haftar launched his offensive last April to seize the capital Tripoli. An estimated 146,000 Libyans have been displaced.
- Syria has reopened a strategic highway connecting the capital city of Damascus and the northern city of Aleppo after troops purged the area of Daesh and other foreign-backed militants.
Syria’s official news agency SANA said the M5 highway that links Damascus to Aleppo (the second largest city) was reopened to the public after Syrian forces secured its surroundings from the danger of terrorists and rocket shells targeting civilians and travellers.
Dozens of buses arrived in Aleppo province from Damascus, Homs, Hama, Lattakia and Tartous governorates as a number of buses also left Aleppo through its western entrance, the al-Nasr roundabout and the beginning of Aleppo-Damascus highway.
The Aleppo-Damascus international highway is a vital economic artery as it is a fast road for the flow of goods, transit trade and passengers between big cities.
The development came as Turkish-backed terrorist groups on Saturday violated a newly-agreed ceasefire in the northwestern province of Idlib 19 times over a period of 24 hours and shelled the villages of Hazaren and Dar al-Kabira in Idlib’s southern countryside.
A senior adviser to President Bashar al-Assad says Syria will continue its war against foreign-backed terrorism following the Idlib ceasefire violations.
And SANA also quoted the head of the Russian defence ministry’s Coordination Centre, Rear Admiral Oleg Zhuravlev, who confirmed: ‘Over the past day, 19 violations of the ceasefire by illegal armed groups have been recorded.’
Last Thursday, Russia and Turkey came to an agreement on an imminent ceasefire regime in Idlib, where Turkish violations have brought about an unwarranted flare-up of violence.
According to the agreement, joint Russian-Turkish patrols would secure a six-kilometre-wide corridor along the M4 highway connecting the two Syrian government-held provinces of Latakia and Aleppo.
The ceasefire also consolidated Syrian control over the M5 highway.
It came just a few months after the Syrian army launched an anti-terror operation against foreign-sponsored militants in Idlib who’d failed to honour an earlier de-escalation agreement brokered by Ankara and Moscow.
- Meanwhile, a senior Iraqi official said Baghdad will never forget Iran’s help in defeating Daesh, and reiterated his country’s willingness to continue all-out cooperation with Tehran, as Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), Ali Shamkhani, arrived in the Iraqi captal on Saturday night at the head of a high-ranking political and security delegation.
Shamkhani met with Iraq’s adviser to the National Security Council, Falih Fayyad, on Sunday and discussed security and regional issues and Baghdad’s role in the developments of the region.
In their joint news conference later, the Iranian official touched on Israeli acts of aggression, saying: ‘The Zionists are against regional stability and security.
‘We hope the day will come when in the region we will see no trace of the Zionists,’ Shamkhani said.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, he said, has always wished stability and peace for Iraq.
Speaking upon his arrival, Shamkhani said he would be speaking with Iraqi President Barham Salih, caretaker Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, Parliament Speaker Mohamed al-Halbousi and leaders from different political factions.
Iran, he said, has maintained good brotherly relations with neighbouring Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
In 2014, when Daesh unleashed its campaign of terror in Iraq, Iranian military advisers rushed to the aid of the Iraqi armed forces, at Baghdad’s request, helping them to gradually reverse the Takfiri terrorist group’s gains and, ultimately, liberate their entire homeland some three years later.
‘The Iraqi people and government will not forget the Islamic Republic of Iran’s help in defeating Daesh,’ Fayyad said, and Shamkhani hailed the ‘successful experience’ of the two neighbours’ cooperation in fighting Takfiri terrorism.
He said: ‘Today, cognitive war as an aspect of the hybrid warfare has replaced the sedition of terrorism and the creators and sponsors of Daesh are trying to achieve their unrealised goals with less costs.’
Shamkhani’s trip comes in the wake of the US assassination of the Middle East’s most prominent anti-terror commander General Qassemi Soleimani and his Iraqi counterpart Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad in January.
General Soleimani was in Baghdad at the invitation of the Iraqi government when he was targeted by a US drone.
The terrorist act led to a crisis in diplomatic relations between the US and Iraq which demanded that the American troops leave the country after the Iraqi parliament voted to throw them out.
The Trump administration has been defiant, and instead threatened to seize Iraq’s oil money being held in a bank account in New York as compensation for its military presence in the Arab country.
Meanwhile, some individuals in Iraq’s intelligence agency have been implicated in the assassination. It is not clear if the issue will feature in the Iranian security official’s talks in Baghdad.
Shamkhani said the move by the Iraqi government, parliament, and nation, which in their millions demanded the expulsion of American troops ‘deserves special recognition’.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Shamkhani referred to the outbreak of a new coronavirus in the region, saying that both facts and rumours were spreading about the epidemic.
The fact is that the Islamic Republic is in possession of abundant resources and will score a victory over the epidemic, he noted, but the virus of imposing sanctions and reneging on pledges is more dangerous to international security than the coronavirus.
Known as COVID-19, the virus first emerged in China late last year and is now spreading in Europe and across the Middle East, sparking fears of a global pandemic.
Last Saturday, Iran’s Health Ministry reported 145 deaths and 5,823 infections. 1,669 have recovered.
Since December 2019, over 106,200 people have been infected worldwide, with 3,600 deaths mostly in China.
The illness, whose symptoms are fever, cough and difficulty in breathing, may cause lung lesions and pneumonia.