Recruiting Syrians to fight in Libya for militia leader Khalifa Haftar accelerated in May when hundreds of mercenaries were signed up by Russia, five Syrian opposition sources and a regional source familiar with the matter said.
Reuters said in an Exclusive report on Sunday that the Russian private military contractor Wagner Group had been conducting the hiring of Syrians with Russian army supervision, according to two senior Syrian opposition sources and the regional source.
Reuters also added that a former Wagner Group member explained that Russia first sent Syrians to Libya in 2019. Wagner has up to 1200 people deployed in Libya, according to a confidential U.N. report seen by Reuters in May.
Meanwhile, US officials said on May 7 they believed Russia was working with Assad to transfer militia fighters and equipment to Libya.
Reuters reported that new recruits to the Russian effort in support of Haftar included 300 from the Homs area, among them former Free Syrian Army fighters, according to one of the two senior opposition sources, while some 320 others are from the southwest in Syria, a third source said.
The pace of hiring increased as Libya’s fighting intensified and the war in Syria died down, the regional source said.
Reuters also cited the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which reports on the Syrian conflict using a network of sources on the ground, as saying that more than 900 Syrians were recruited by Russia to fight in Libya in May alone.
“The fighters are trained at a base in Homs before going to Libya,” according to the sources, who cited salaries ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 a month.