A surprise visit by Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar to Qatar at the weekend may signal that Turkey is seeking to bolster an army of militants and mercenaries in Libya with Somali fighters, the Libya Review said in an article on Sunday.
Akar met with Qatari Prince Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani in the capital Doha. No details of the discussions were published by Qatari state-run media, the Libya Review said.
The visit comes amid reports that the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), backed by Turkey, is moving fighters toward the strategic Mediterranean city of Sirte ahead of a possible offensive. Turkey has sent rocket launchers and self-propelled guns used in Syria to Libya in preparation, the Turkish Milliyet newspaper reported on Sunday.
Qatar and Turkey held the talks the day after the Pentagon issued a report stating that Turkey sent between 3,500 and 3,800 paid fighters to Libya from Syria to strengthen the GNA’s army. The report may have caused a shift in the Turkish view of the use of Syrians, which has provoked international criticism, and toward the employment of more Somali fighters, which Qatar has trained and deploys from bases there, the Libya Review said.
The visit also occurred after several days of intense clashes in Libya in which Syrian mercenaries were involved, the Libya Review said.
Turkey and Qatar have become close regional allies, cooperating in Libya and in the war in Syria. Egypt, which along with Russia and the United Arab Emirates backs Libyan opposition leader General Khalifa Haftar, has warned that it will respond to any attempted occupation of Sirte or the strategic al-Jufra airbase in Libya’s oil crescent with a military intervention.