During the Second Artsakh War and after that, some Syrian mercenaries talked about their recruitment by Turkey, transfer to Azerbaijan, and participation in the war against Artsakh.
The motives of mercenaries to present this information to a number of reputable international sources were connected with their complaints against Turkey. They claimed that they had not received the promised money for participating in the war. Some mercenaries complained that during recruitment they were promised another “job,” but as soon as they were transferred to Azerbaijan, they were sent to the front.
The details of the interview of mercenaries and the results of the interrogation of 2 mercenaries prove that Azerbaijan used a great number of mercenaries in the war against Artsakh.
In interviews conducted independently, the facts told by mercenaries are almost identical. This shows that the data provided by mercenaries is reliable.
Interview with hired terrorists
Mercenaries in Azerbaijan and Artsakh gave interviews to such media as the BBC, The Times UK, The Guardian, etc.
Syrian Abdulla (the source, for security reasons, did not reveal the real name of the mercenary) told the BBC that at the beginning of the war, hundreds aged 17-30 were recruited from northern enclaves controlled by Turkey. They were sent to Karabakh with the acknowledgment of the Syrian National Army.
Four days before the war, they were transferred to Azerbaijan and placed “at the line of contact with the Armenians.”
In a letter to the BBC, Abdullah said that Saif Abu Bakr, the commander of the Hamza division of the Syrian National Army, offered him to go to Azerbaijan “to defend border military positions for up to 2000 USD a month.”
According to him, on September 27, his friends were taken to the front line, where they found themselves under shelling and suffered losses. 4 Syrians were killed. At the base, where they were located, Abdulla saw 10 bodies of his compatriots, and about 70 were injured.
He mentioned that most of the mercenaries were civilians who did not have any military experience. After the first losses, some of them wanted to go back to Syria, but they were not allowed and were threatened with imprisonment.
Sources in the Syrian National Army informed the Turkish Air Forces in the Syrian city of Jarabulus that almost 1000 people “volunteered” to go to Nagorno-Karabakh, including fighters from the divisions of Sultan Murad and Al-Hamza. According to the source from the Air Forces, 250 volunteers were transferred to Azerbaijan on a military plane from the nearby Turkish city of Gaziantep.
The article was published on September 30, 2020. The number of mercenaries used by Azerbaijan during the war against Artsakh might be several times higher.
Another reputable newspaper, The Guardian, interviewed 3 people living in a rebel-controlled part of Syria. They said that the war and severe poverty in Syria, lasting over a decade, forced them to register abroad with a private Turkish company providing security services for the proposed “job.”
Brothers living in Azaz mentioned that they were taken to a military camp in Afrin on September 13.
Upon arrival, the commander of the Turkish-controlled division, Sultan Murad, said that they should go to Azerbaijan, where they should guard observation posts and oil and gas facilities. Their contracts ranged from 3 to 6 months in length, with a monthly salary of 7000 to 10000 Turkish lira (about 1200–1800 USD).
The “commander” did not specify what kind of “work” they were supposed to do or how the “business trip” would end. It was not mentioned who the “Turkish security company” is and who will pay their “salary.” Mohammad said:
“Our leader told us that we should not fight. We should just help them defend some regions. Our salary is not enough to survive, and that is why we saw a good opportunity there to earn money.”
A man named Omar, an Idlib resident, told The Guardian that on September 22, he and 150 other people were called to Afrin, where they were told to prepare for the trip, but later they were told that the trip was delayed. He said:
“When the first time we were offered a job in Libya, people were afraid to go there, but now there are thousands of people in our region who want to go to Libya or Azerbaijan. We do not have anything here.”
The Guardian mentioned that some sources from the Syrian National Army (according to the BBC, the main hideout of Turkish-funded Syrian rebel groups), as well as an observer of the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR), said that the first group, consisting of 500 people from the divisions of Sultan Murad and Al Hamza on September 28, had already arrived in Azerbaijan, including two senior commanders: Fahim Eysan from Sultan Murad and Saif Abu Bakir from Al Hamza.
The Times spoke to Mohammed Mahmoud al-Surani, a Syrian National Army militant from Idlib. According to al-Surani, almost 200 of his comrades were recruited to participate in a war in Karabakh.
The interlocutor of The Times also reported that the volunteers were told that they should guard different objects in the rear and on the front line.
Al-Surani eventually refused to go to Azerbaijan because “he would not fight for Azerbaijanis because they are Shiites, and against the followers of Shiism he fought in Syria.”
According to the website Novayagazeta.ru, their sources in Syria reported that 700 to 1000 fighters were transferred to Azerbaijan “to guard oil and gas tunnels. “The fighters were divided into groups of 300 people, and then they were transferred to Kilis, a city near the Turkish border.
In Kilis, fighters, instead of their field uniforms, received other clothes and were transferred to the airport of Gaziantep, then to Istanbul, and from Istanbul to Baku.
In an interview with a famous Iraqi journalist, Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, one of the terrorists who fought in Artsakh, mentioned that fighters from Sultan Murad, Suleiman Shah, Al Hamza, and other groups participated in the war against Artsakh. Turkey promised them to pay 2500 USD a month, but did not keep the promise and paid only 600 USD.
Mhreb Muhammad Alshher, a Syrian mercenary captured in Artsakh in late October, confessed during interrogation that he, along with 250 other terrorists, was transferred to the Azerbaijan-Artsakh front by Turkey on October 19. They were promised to be paid 2000 USD, but they never received it.
According to the terrorist, during the fight, they were on the front line, while Azerbaijani soldiers were behind them. Before transferring to the front, mercenaries were trained by Turkish military instructors in different camps.
Another captured Syrian, Yusuf Alabet Al-Haji, who is from Al-Ziyade village in the Idlib region, during the interrogation said that his acquaintance Ibrahim, from the neighbouring village, offered him to go to Azerbaijan for money. Ibrahim informed him that military exercises were taking place there and that Yusuf would be paid 2000 USD for his participation. On the same day, he and other Syrians who decided to go were transferred to the Bab al-Salam checkpoint.
There were almost 500 other people in attendance. Mercenaries crossed the Syrian-Turkish border by buses and went to the closest airport, where they were placed in 2 civilian planes with Turkish flags. After changing one more plane in Turkey, they were transferred to Azerbaijan. He mentioned that they reached Azerbaijan on October 18.
In Azerbaijan, they were placed in one of the central military units, where they received uniforms and necklaces with numbers on them. On the next day, they were given Russian-made weapons and, with Azerbaijan and Turkish commanders, did military exercises. After that, they were transferred to another military unit, where there were 500 more Syrians. In that military unit, they were divided into groups, and their group of 150 people went to the front by pickups.