Where does Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gets his militia from? According to experts, more than 80% mercenaries that are fighting the Syrian civil war are being imported from other countries with the backing of Iran.
These foreign fighters, almost of all which are Shia Muslims, are not merely composed of Lebanese and Iraqis but include significant numbers of fighters from South Asia—mainly Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Pakistani Shia foreign fighters are believed to have been fighting in their own distinct unit in Syria, a stark difference from earlier stages when the untrained Pakistani fighters were mixed with other units since they lacked battlefield experience.
Starting in 2013, large numbers of Pakistani Shia from the Turi tribe of the Kurram tribal region and ethnic Hazaras from Quetta began to arrive in Syria. Around this same time, many social media pages proliferated prompting Pakistani Shia to join the growing network of fighters in Syria to defend Damascus and the holy shrines.
Zainebiyoun Brigade reportedly has over 800-1200 Pakistanis fighting in Syria. The group’s fighters are allegedly trained by Iran’s Quds Force, the military unit responsible for projecting Iran’s influence via proxies across the Middle East.
According to Qom News, intense clashes recently erupted in Syria’s Idlib province which resulted in the killing of 21 fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The report says 18 members of Pakistani Shiite fighters of Zeynabyoun Brigate and three members of Afghan Shiite Fatemyoun Brigade were killed in the battle. The burial ceremony of those killed took place on Sunday, March 1 in Iran’s holy city of Qom, which is also the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus in Iran.
As EurAsian Times reported earlier citing an Indian news portal, Pakistan is also reportedly assisting its strategic ally Turkey in the Syrian civil war. The difference is that they would be fighting against the Assad regime, unlike the Zaynabiyoun Brigade.
Over 100 Pakistan backed militia have arrived in war-torn Syria to fight alongside the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) according to ThePrint. The fact that Pakistani mercenaries have landed in Syria has been revealed by Lindsey Snell, a US journalist who has exclusively covered the Syrian war.
Snell, who was reportedly abducted by an al-Qaida affiliate and even jailed by Turkey, told ThePrint that the information was given to her by a “source in the FSA”.
According to her source, she said, a total of 1,400 Pakistani mercenaries are to join the Turkish-backed group, which is one of the many non-government militias involved in the Syrian civil war. If this claim is true, then Pakistan Shia Muslims under the Zaynabiyoun Brigade could be taking on Pakistan Sunni Muslims fighting for Erdogan backed Islamic militants.