Russian Firm Reportedly Transferring Idle Syrian Rebels to Libya
PMC Wagner, a private Russian security company whose owner is said to have close ties to President Vladimir Putin, recruited hundreds of Syrians last month to go to Libya to fight under renegade army general Khalifa Haftar against forces loyal to the UN-backed government in Tripoli. The Reuters news agency, relying on information from “five Syrian opposition sources and a regional source familiar with the matter,” reports that the recruitment drive was conducted “with Russian army supervision.” Moscow has troops and warplanes in Syria, where they are backing President Bashar al-Assad in his more-than nine-year fight against disparate rebel groups that at one point nearly succeeded in wresting away control of the country. Today, just a few rebel groups are holding out in the northwestern part of the country, where a government offensive launched in December continues, although in recent months only sporadically. The Reuters report quotes the “regional” source as saying: “The pace of hiring [by PMC Wagner] increased as Libya’s fighting intensified and the war in Syria died down.” A Syrian opposition group placed the number of mercenaries hired in May at “more than 900” who are paid anywhere from “$1,000 to $2,000 a month.” Turkey, which has been supporting anti-Assad rebels in Syria, is said to have sent some of those rebels to Libya along with Turkish advisers to support the Tripoli government, which in recent weeks has succeeded in pushing back Haftar’s forces.