Fifteen pro-Turkish Syrian fighters defected last week and fled to Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)-run areas near the Turkish-controlled areas after refusing to take part in battles between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, revealed local sources in northeastern Syria.
They said seven of the fighters defected on Saturday and headed to the SDF-run Abu Rasin, in the far northern countryside of Hasakeh, following eight fighters who defected last week.
The fighters were ordered to become mercenaries and fight in all the battle fronts Turkey intervenes in.
According to observers, defections have increased among pro-Turkish Syrian fighters who refuse to participate in foreign battles in Libya and Azerbaijan.
They said that poverty had driven many Syrians to become involved in these battles in the first place.
Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but is populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians.
The conflict has brought into sharp focus the increased influence of Turkey, an ally of Azerbaijan, in a former Soviet region considered by Russia to be within its sphere of influence. Russia also has a security alliance with Armenia.
Armenia’s defense ministry said Sunday a second militant from Syria had been captured on the battlefield. Azerbaijan has previously denied the presence of foreign fighters.
Separately, pro-ISIS followers on Telegram have claimed responsibility for the assassination of a senior commander in the SDF in Markada in southern Hasakeh.
The SDF launched a security operation on Sunday to pursue ISIS sleeper cells that are involved in the assassination of SDF commanders.
Masked gunmen on a motorcycle killed the commander on Sunday in Markada.