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Syrian fighters add snarls to tangled south Caucasus

Clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia seem to have taken a dangerous turn with conflicting reports of Turkey bringing in Syrian mercenaries.
STEPANAKERT, NAGORNO-KARABAKH - OCTOBER 2:  An emergency services member stands atop the site of a grass fire started by a bomb that fell nearby on October 2, 2020 in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh. A decades-old conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has reignited in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, recognized by most countries as part of Azerbaijan, but controlled by ethnic Armenians since a 1994 ceasefire. Dozens have been reported killed in the recent fighting, in which both countries blame the
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Turkey’s direct intervention in the clashes in the southern Caucasus, which has been under the influence of Russia for over two centuries, risks a new confrontation between Ankara and Moscow. The international news media and Syrian local sources are abuzz with reports of Syrian fighters transported to Azerbaijan to support its battle against Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and occupied territories.

Despite denials by Ankara and Baku, some sources have already reported the first Syrian casualties in the clashes. According to Muzahem al-Salum, a former spokesperson of Jaysh Maghawir Al-Thawra, a Syrian rebel group that was once backed by the United States, the first group of Syrian fighters was dispatched to Caucasus a week ago before the fresh clashes Armenia and Azerbaijan resumed on Sep. 26. Salum claimed the fighters were recruited through a center set up by the Turkish-backed Sultan Murad Brigades in northern Syria.

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