The American video journalist Lindsey Snell revealed in a TV interview new details of links between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and terrorist groups, and his motives for sending mercenaries to Libya.
[Libya, 11 March 2020] – In an interview with al-Bilad TV show on News218 satellite channel, Lindsey Snell, who specialises in conflict and humanitarian crises, said that Erdogan supported the terrorist group al-Qaeda in Syria since its establishment, and has consistently provided the so-called Free Syrian Army with weapons.
“I spoke with a number of militants belonging to the Free Syrian Army factions who had received arms after crossing the Turkish borders into Syria. They were supposed to transfer those weapons to a certain city where they were to leave them, along with ammunition, in preparation for handing them over to al-Nusra Front,” disclosed Snell.
She noted that by adopting such a plan Turkey was supporting militant organizations, adding that the situation had become clearer recently, although al-Nusra Front changed its name twice and claimed that it separated from Al Qaeda in 2016. Al-Nusra Front is still classified as a terrorist organization in many countries, including Turkey.
The US journalist pointed out that there are countless videos showing members of Ahrar al-Sham driving Turkish vehicles and tanks, and carrying Turkish weapons alongside Turkish military officers.
She stressed that Erdogan continues to support these militants, noting that even on the same day when some of these videos were leaked, Erdogan allegedly pledged to fight them and use force against them if necessary, but in reality his statements were a farce.
Regarding the transfer of mercenaries to Libya, Snell said that Ankara will continue to send mercenaries, and confirmed that she has recently received information and photographs of a further group of 175 mercenaries who already arrived in Tripoli, Libya.
She said that the information that she obtained seems to indicate that an additional 360 mercenaries are to follow them in the coming days due to the recent causalities and setbacks they suffered in the western countryside of Aleppo.
Snell continued: “There is a flood of members of the opposition group and not just the Free Syrian Army, but also Ahrar al-Sham who have been displaced from parts of Idlib and in the western countryside of Aleppo. Because they had no place to go to, some joined other groups of the Free Syrian Army. Many of them will be sent to Libya. That’s why they are waiting until it is their turn to go on a plane and come here to Libya.”
On the issue of financing of terrorism, Snell confirmed that the Tripoli-based Government of the National Accord (GNA) were willing to pay the price for Erdogan’s adventure in Libya by paying the costs of all the Syrian mercenaries who were sent to Libya. She indicated the each mercenary was fetching a salary in Libya ranging between US$2,000–US$3,000 a month, and that in effect this money was coming from the pockets of the Libyan people.
Snell said in the interview that salaries to the mercenaries were paid on time despite the failure of the GNA, headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, to pay the salaries of Libyan militias. It was because of this reason that the pro-GNA militias his office.
She also pointed to the existence of multiple reports of civil servants in Tripoli who did not receive their salaries, while the mercenaries received US$2,000–US$3,000 a month.
Lindsey Snell believed that the GNA shifted its priorities to financing the Syrian mercenaries and the Turkish army, because many Syrian mercenaries had lost their homes in the western countryside of Aleppo, and they have no place to go. If they remained in Syria they would only receive U$100 a month. But when a Turkish leader comes and offers them US$3,000 a month if they go to Libya, for many mercenaries this was their only option.
“This is their only available way survive,” said Snell, adding that some of those Syrian fighters told her that this was the reason they went to Libya and they know they are mercenaries but they have nothing in Syria, they have no choice and they did not care anymore.
The US journalist indicated that some of the young came to Libya under a different expectations, that Turkish leaders were telling them that they would go to fight the Russians in Libya. “They believed that scenario,” added Snell. She said that Turkey would tell them anything in order to convince them to go and fight in Libya.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights over 6,000 Syrian mercenary fighters have been sent by Turkey to support GNA militias. Credible reports indicate that over 140 Syrian mercenaries have been killed fighting the Libyan National Army (LNA).