Detained Syrian Mercenaries Will not be Exchanged in Prisoner Swap, Says Armenia

Mehrab Muhammad Al-Shkheir (left) and Yusuf Alaabet al-Hajji
Mehrab Muhammad Al-Shkheir (left) and Yusuf Alaabet al-Hajji

Mehrab Muhammad Al-Shkheir (left) and Yusuf Alaabet al-Hajji

Syrian mercenaries who were arrested by Armenia for fighting alongside Azerbaijani forces in the Karabakh war will not be exchanged in the prisoner swap with Azerbaijan, the investigation committee told Armenpress on Wednesday.

Syrian jihadists were recruited by Ankara and were paid to fight alongside Azerbaijani forces, some committed heinous crimes against Armenians in Artsakh.

Artsakh forces detained two such mercenaries, who were transported to Armenia and have been detained since last month.

“They [the mercenaries] are defendants and have been remanded into custody,” the committee’s spokesperson Rima Yeganyan told Armenpress.

The two Syrian citizens who identify themselves as Yusuf Alaabet al-Hajji and Mehrab Muhammad Al-Shkheir were arrested and charged with international terrorism, gross violation of international humanitarian law norms during armed conflict, and terrorism.

According to Yeganyan, they do not fall under the“all for all” principle of exchanging POWs and other detainees between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

“We were ordered to slaughter every Armenian in the village,” al-Haji told interrogators last month, adding that in addition to his promised monthly $2000 stipend, he and others were offered $100 for every Armenian they beheaded.

When he was captured by Artsakh forces on November 2, al-Hajji said he was a resident of the Ziyadiya village in the Jisr al-Shughur region of Idlib province of Syria. On October 30, another Ankara-backed mercenary calling himself Mehrab Muhammad al-Shkheir from the Syrian city of Hama was also captured.

In their testimonies the two terrorists provided detailed information about their recruitment process, the expected monthly payment for fighting against “kafirs” (infidels), the extra payment for the each beheaded Armenian, as well as about other orders they had to follow, which both said were given by Turkish and Azerbaijani military commanders.

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