Since fighting broke out between Armenian forces and Azerbaijan in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, there have been reports of mercenaries from Syria participating in the battle. The Guardian published a story on Friday that quoted a Syrian who was recruited to support Azerbaijan.
The Guardian, and other media outlets, had previously reported that a Turkish security firm recruited men in northern Syria to work as border guards in Azerbaijan for around $1,000 a month. The governments of Russia and France have said they have information that indicates fighters are being sent to the conflict zone from northern Syria.
On Friday, AFP cited the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and said 28 Syrian fighters have been killed in Nagorno-Karabakh. Relatives of three fighters confirmed their deaths to AFP.
The Guardian spoke with Mustafa Khalid for Friday’s story, a 23-year-old Syrian man from Idlib city who asked not to use his real name. Khalid said he signed up on September 18th and was now posted on the line of contact, the border that separates Azeri forces and Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Khalid said he traveled with a contingent of 1,000 men from Turkish-backed opposition groups in northern Syria. The group crossed the Syrian-Turkish border and traveled to a military base in Gaziantep, Turkey, where they boarded a plane to Istanbul. From Istanbul, the mercenaries flew in cargo planes to Azerbaijan. The Guardian said flight data confirmed the account.
“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.
The fighting has been fierce in Nagorno-Karabakh and entered its sixth day on Friday. Almost 200 people have been killed, including more than 30 civilians. Turkey declared its support for Azerbaijan early on in the fighting but has denied accusations of being involved militarily.