Syrian recruit describes role of foreign fighters in Nagorno-Karabakh – The Guardian

A Syrian fighter sent into combat with Azerbaijani forces in Nagorno-Karabakh has detailed the extent of foreign involvement in the conflict with Armenia that, after six days of clashes, is taking on a regional dimension, The Guardian reports.

Several men in Syria’s last opposition stronghold of Idlib province told the Guardian this week that over the last month military commanders and brokers who claimed to represent Turkish security companies had offered them work guarding observation posts and oil and gas facilities in Azerbaijan on three- or six-month contracts.

They were offered around 10,000 Turkish lira (£1,000) a month – a huge sum of money for Syrians trapped by a decade of war and poverty.

Mustafa Khalid, who asked that his real name not be used because he was not authorized to speak to media, confirmed the previous reports, telling the Guardian he signed up on 18 September and was now stationed at a post on the line of contact which has come under sustained artillery fire since last Sunday.

The 23-year-old from Idlib city said he travelled as part of a contingent of 1,000 Syrian men from the Turkish-backed Sultan Murad, Suleiman Shah and Al Hamza divisions which left the Hawar Kilis border crossing with Turkey for a military base in Gaziantep on 23 September.

The next day they flew to Istanbul and then on to Azerbaijan via Turkish military cargo planes. Data from the Flight Radar website, which tracks aircraft movements, as well as geo-located pictures and coordinates sent to the Guardian, confirm his account.

Syrians posted to Nagorno-Karabakh appear to be wearing the blue uniforms that are standard issue to Azerbaijani border guards.

“I was hesitant to come here at the beginning because I had no idea about this country and I don’t speak the language. I knew there were skirmishes between the two countries, but I didn’t know that I was coming to war. I thought it was just guard work,” Khalid said.

“I came here to make money and have a better life back in Syria where the living conditions are miserable. I consider this a job, nothing else,” he said.

On Friday, the French president, Emmanuel Macron said intelligence reports had established that 300 fighters from “jihadist groups” in Syria had passed through Turkey on the way to Azerbaijan, saying “a red line has been crossed” and demanding an explanation.

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