President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday two Turkish troops were killed in fighting in Libya and also defended Turkey’s deployment of Syrian opposition fighters to the North African country, Reuters reported.
Turkey has been providing military support to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), which has been trying to fend off an offensive by Khalifa Haftar’s forces to the east. Last year the two sides signed a military cooperation deal and Turkey has since sent troops and allied Syrian fighters there.
Ankara has so far stressed its forces were not fighting in Libya but rather providing coordination to the GNA. Erdoğan said on Saturday that Turkey had “several martyrs” in Libya, and on Tuesday he clarified two had died.
“We have two martyrs there,” Erdoğan told a news conference in Ankara, repeating there were also fighters from the Syrian National Army working with Turkish personnel. The Syrian National Army is a Turkish-backed rebel group fighting against pro-Damascus forces in northern Syria.
“Those going [to Libya] from Syria, from the Syrian National Army, have a common goal. … Our brothers who are with us in Syria see being there with us as an honor,” Erdoğan added.
On Sunday, Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) said they had killed 16 Turkish soldiers in recent weeks. Since the deployment of Turkish soldiers and sophisticated equipment to the GNA, the LNA has lost some of its gains. The LNA is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia.