By David Phillips
NEW YORK (Ahval) – On September 27, 2020, the Azerbaijani armed forces attacked Nagorno Karabakh (“Artsakh” in Armenian). They were backed by the Turkish military and jihadist mercenaries with armed drones, heavy artillery, rocket systems and special forces.
At least 3,500 Armenians were killed and over 100,000 civilians were displaced during 44 days of violent conflict. Eye-witnesses describe Azeri soldiers mutilating bodies, beheading civilians, and using banned weapons such as cluster bombs and white phosphorus. Sanctions are needed to hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Turkey deployed up to 2,000 Islamist jihadis from Syria and Libya who were promised a bounty for killing Armenians. The identity of jihadis leaders is known.
Sayf Balud (Sayf Abu Bakr) has led the Syrian National Army (SNA)’s Hamza Division since 2016. He participated in Operation Olive Branch, the invasion of Afrin in northern Syria, and the Libyan Civil War, both with Turkish patronage. In 2013, Balud appeared in an ISIS video. He and his mercenary cohorts are responsible for multiple war crimes, including the kidnapping of Kurdish women and brutal repression in Afrin. He is one of Turkey’s most trusted and supported mercenary leaders. He and approximately 500 of his men were reportedly flown to Azerbaijan to fight in Artsakh.
Fehim Isa (Isa al-Turkmani) has led the SNA’s Sultan Murad Division since at least 2015. He was directly involved in Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria, Operation Olive Branch, and the Libyan Civil War. He and his division have also been accused of war crimes, such as the torturing of Kurdish soldiers and indiscriminate shelling of civilians.