Syrian rebels recruited to fight in Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict, source says

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CNN spoke with a Syrian national who signed up to travel from northern Syria to Azerbaijan. The man, who declined to give his real name, said he lived in the Afrin region in northern Syria, but was originally from Damascus.

He said he belonged to a faction of the rebel Syrian National Army, which is supported by Turkey. Its leader had asked those who were ready to go to Azerbaijan to register. “I did this voluntarily and 90% of my unit signed up,” he told CNN via WhatsApp. “They told us they would give us $ 1,500 a month.

“Our contracts are for three months, and each month we will be paid by the unit commander,” he said, adding that he did not know who was funding the operation.

The fighter contacted by CNN said volunteers were gathering in the Hawar Kilis area near the Syrian-Turkish border awaiting transport. The passage is controlled by a faction of the Syrian National Army.

CNN has contacted the Turkish government to find out if it is recruiting Syrian fighters to travel to Azerbaijan. The Foreign Ministry said these were “baseless allegations.”Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry also denied that Syrian fighters were on Azeri soil and referred to “a completely false and defamatory smear campaign in some foreign media allegedly linked to the importation of fighters from Syria to Azerbaijan ”. He said Armenia was behind the allegations.

The fighter contacted by CNN, a father of three, said his family lived below the poverty line. He was ready to go to Azerbaijan “because of the money, and the whole world knows that the Syrians who live here are starving”.

For starters, the man thought that the volunteers would be involved in the guard service “but after the first batch of fighters went to Azerbaijan, we learned that it was fighting like the fighting in Syria and Libya ”.

“We learned that it was war and that we were not working for a security company,” he said.

The man said he heard that “around 1,000 or more fighters” had been registered. “None of my relatives went in the first batch, but I know guys who went in the first batch,” he told CNN. He had also heard that Syrians had been killed in Azerbaijan.

The man, who was a carpenter, said he wanted life to return to normal and only went to Azerbaijan for the money. “I wish the war would end in Azerbaijan and Armenia, but the only job is security work and that way I can still provide food and life for my children. ”

CNN reported earlier this year that dozens of Syrian rebels had been recruited by Turkish military contractors to fight on behalf of the transitional government in Libya.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in February that members of the Syrian National Army had traveled to Libya to support the government.

Kareem Khadder reported from Jerusalem and Gul Tuysuz reported from Istanbul. Tim Lister wrote to Cordoba.

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