Two thousand Syrian fighters have traveled from Turkey or will arrive imminently to fight on the battlefields of Libya, Syrian sources have said, in an unprecedented development that threatens to further complicate the north African state’s intractable civil war.

The deployment came after Turkey agreed last month to come to the aid of the Libyan prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, who is backed by the UN, in the face of a months-long campaign by his rival, the warlord Khalifa Haftar.

Ankara has supported the Syrian anti-government troops since the early days of the battle against the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, even as the original Free Syrian Army umbrella group grew weak and splintered because of infighting and the growth of Islamist elements within rebel ranks. Turkey now uses some rebel fighters as proxies against Kurdish-led forces despite allegations of human rights abuses from watchdogs.

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