Dozens of youths from Suwayda recruited to fight as mercenaries in Libya by Russia, Assad regime: report

Jun 22, 2020

The local Suwayda 24 network has published an investigation, including detailed information and documents, revealing operations to recruit dozens of young Syrians from the Suwayda governorate, who are being conscripted in order to be transferred to Libya where they’re used as mercenaries alongside Haftar’s militias.

The network indicated that its investigation confirms the existence of direct coordination between Russia and the Assad regime in this operation, through Syrian and Russian security companies, working to send hundreds of Syrian fighters to Libya, taking advantage of Syrians’ poverty and the deteriorating economic situation.

Flights have been renewed to transport mercenaries from regime-controlled areas to Libya, with the Suwayda-24 site revealing that a group of hundreds of Syrians from different governorates was scheduled to travel on Monday morning to Benghazi airport in Libya, according to a mercenary from one of the villages in the western countryside of As-Suwayda.

The same source confirmed that dozens of young men from Suwayda governorate are currently stationed at the Russian base, in addition to dozens of others from different governorates such as Daraa, Quneitra, Damascus countryside, Homs, Tartus, and Latakia, all areas currently under regime control.

Among the most prominent bodies overseeing the recruitment processes in the Suwayda governorate is the ‘Al-Sayyad’ security company, which provides guards and protection services. The firm is registered in Syria’s commercial register as No. 9765 / 3/17/2017, with its headquarters in Al-Suqaylabiyah city in Hama Governorate, and is managed by an individual named as Fawaz Michael Gerges, according to documents published by Suweida-24.

The site explained that Gerges is the company head, and the most prominent figure responsible for recruiting mercenaries in Syria and sending them to Libya, in cooperation with the Russian ‘Wagner Group, which has strong relations with Russian forces in Syria, and moves between Syria and Russia repeatedly; Gerges received a medal from the Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018, in recognition of his services.

Although security companies charge clients between US $1,000- $1,500 per month, the terms of the contracts seen by Suweida-24 confirm that the first-month salary for a combatant is $200, rising to $300 in subsequent months, in addition to a daily combat bonus of $10, for every day a mercenary participates in combat operations.

Local sources in the south of Syria have previously revealed the activities of a political party close to the Assad regime which has been working to recruit mercenaries loyal to the regime with the aim of sending them to fight in Libya under the auspices and support of a private Russian security company to equip and recruit them.

The latest revelations are similar to those conducted by the body responsible for financing and supporting the recruitment operations taking place within the regime-controlled areas in southern Syria, with the support of the ‘Wagner’ group, a Russian security firm similar to the USA’s infamous ‘Blackwater’ that seeks to equip mercenaries to send them to Libya, to support the forces of Khalifa Haftar, backed by Russia.

The Libyan Al-Wefaq government had previously commented on these operations, confirming that the forces of retired Major General Khalifa Haftar had resorted to bringing mercenary fighters from Syria, loyal to the Assad regime, who had recently been transferred via 12 flights to eastern Libya, releasing a quantity of information on the subject.

Meanwhile, informed sources have revealed a continuous increase in air activity between the Hmeimim and Damascus International airports and the Haftar-control areas in Libya, which indicates that the activity is due to the implementation of the process of transferring mercenaries from Hmeimim to Libya, while a recent investigation by the local network revealed that the transport of mercenaries is carried out by civil aircraft from the regime-owned ‘Shaam Wings’ airline.

- S.N.N/Suwayda 24