(CNN)Further evidence is emerging of rebels from Syria being recruited to fight as mercenaries in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Rebels from Syria recruited to fight in conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, source says
CNN spoke to a Syrian national who has been signed up to travel from northern Syria to Azerbaijan. The man, who declined to provide his real name, said he was living in the Afrin area of northern Syria but was originally from Damascus.
He said he belonged to a faction of the rebel Syrian National Army, which is backed by Turkey. Its leader had asked those prepared to go to Azerbaijan to register. "I voluntarily did that and 90% of my unit signed up," he told CNN via WhatsApp. "They told us that they will give us $1,500 a month.
"Our contracts are for three months, and every month we will be getting paid by the unit commander," he said, adding that he didn't know who was funding the operation.
The fighter contacted by CNN said volunteers were gathering in the Hawar Kilis area near the Syria-Turkey border awaiting transportation. The crossing is controlled by a faction of the Syrian National Army.
CNN reached out to the Turkish government for a response on whether it is recruiting Syrian fighters to go to Azerbaijan. The Foreign Ministry said they were "baseless allegations."
The Foreign Ministry in Azerbaijan also denied Syrian fighters were on Azeri soil, and spoke of "a completely false and slanderous smear campaign in some foreign media, allegedly in connection with the import of fighters from Syria to Azerbaijan." It said Armenia was behind the allegations.
The fighter contacted by CNN, a father of three, said his family was living below the poverty line. He was prepared to travel to Azerbaijan "because of the money, and all the world knows that the Syrians living here are dying of hunger."
To begin with, the man thought the volunteers would be involved in guard duty "but after the first batch of fighters went to Azerbaijan, we learned it was about fighting like the fighting in Syria and Libya."
"We learned it's war and not work for a security company," he said.