By Mohamad Abdel Kader
Tripoli, Jan 23 (efe-epa).- A year ago, a first group of nearly 2,500 Syrian opposition mercenaries arrived in Libya on board of Turkish army-charted planes alongside with dozens of thousands of weapons and ammunition.
Their mission was to join the militias of the United Nations-backed, Tripoli-based Government of National Accord fighting troops led by Marshal Khalifa Hafter, who had laid siege to the capital since 4 April 2019, the day that UN Secretary General Antonio Gutierres was set to travel to Libya to promote the peace process.
Haftar, who had controlled the south of the country, was preparing to seize all of it with the support of around 3,000 mercenaries of the Russian group “Wagner Group”, owned by Yevgeny Prighozin, close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Chadian mercenaries and “Janjaweed” Arab militias, coupled with the weapons sent by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, tilted the balance in Haftar’s favor.
The Arab militias are accused of alleged war crimes in Darfur under General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who is now the vice-president of the military council that ousted Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019.
The Syrian mercenaries’ arrival, however, proved to be game changer as it forced Haftar’s troops to withdraw to the Sirte Gulf, located 400 km to the west of the capital.
They remain there despite the expiry of the deadline for their departure set by the Military Committee 5+5, the only organization that the warring Libyan factions talk through as part of the new peace talks sponsored by the UN.
THE MAIN DESTABILIZING FACTOR
“There are still hundreds of Wagner soldiers in al-Jufrah (Hafter’s troops base in central Libya) and at the Brak al-Shati base,” a GNA military official, who for security reasons preferred to reveal their identity, told Efe.