The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) announced that the total of mercenaries sent by Turkey to Libya amounted to 18,000 Syrians, in addition to 2,500 Tunisians, to fight alongside the Government of National Accord(GNA) in its war against the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
The Syrian Observatory stated, in a statement Saturday, that among those mercenaries, there are 350 children under the age of 18.
The SOHR added that 10,750 mercenaries had returned to Syria after ending their contracts and receiving their financial dues, stressing that 10,000 other mercenaries are still loyally affiliated to Turkey.
The crisis of the Turkish-flagged cargo ship, Roseline A, which was stopped in the Mediterranean by the German frigate Humburg, escalated, Monday, as Berlin announced that Turkey had prevented the German military vessels from inspecting a cargo ship believed to be transporting weapons to Libya.
According to Reuters, a German military spokesman indicated that soldiers from the frigate Hamburg boarded the Turkish ship Rosaline A, which was traveling to the Libyan port of Misrata from Istanbul; however, they were forced not to inspect the ship and withdrew after Turkey protested.
Turkey claimed that the ship was carrying various materials such as food and paint, adding that the German inspection team “violated international law” by not waiting for permission from Turkey. Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned Germany’s implementation of the inspection of the ship, which Ankara claimed was a merchant ship.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said, “We regret the detention of our ship, which stopped its course for hours under harsh weather conditions; its crewmembers were treated like criminals during the inspection,” stressing the ministry’s rejection of this unauthorized act, as the Turkish ship was transporting paints and humanitarian aid to Libya and was inspected without the permission of Turkey or the ship’s captain.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the ambassadors of the European Union, Italy, and Germany, according to Al-Arabiya, in protest against the attempt to inspect a Turkish ship in search of weapons heading for Libya.
The ministry added that Ankara presented the three envoys with protest notes against the attempt to inspect its ship, considering that a violation of international law.
A German military ship and helicopter carried out the inspection, as part of the IRINI mission, while visual media broadcast images that showed the moment the German navy personnel stormed one of the Turkish ships loaded with weapons and heading towards Libya.
The European Union launched Operation ‘IRINI’ on March 31, 2020. It succeeds Operation Sophia, which focused on rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean Sea.
According to the EU, IRINI’s main objective is to enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya through the use of maritime, aerial, and satellite assets.
Civil war broke out in Libya after the toppling of long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, who was later killed. Numerous militias are fighting for power and influence in the country, with Tripoli-allied militias backed by Turkey, Qatar, and Italy. Meanwhile, eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, France, and Russia.