By Biljana Pekusic
He has not chosen to fight for Moammer Gaddafi, or for the Libyan rebels. But Zoran G, a northern Kosovo resident and former soldier of fortune, says he understands why others may have done so.
“I would go to Libya or any other country to fight for a good salary,” he told SETimes.
Ever since turmoil erupted in February, there have been reports of Balkan mercenaries in the north African country. Media reports last week claimed that rebel fighters executed a large group of fighters-for-hire in the city of Misrata, including nine Croats, 12 Serbs and an unknown number of Bosniaks.
That story remains unconfirmed, and details about the overall number of Balkan mercenaries active in the country are hard to come by. Still, military operations experts say they have enough data to form a rough estimate.
“According to my information, about 250 persons from Serbia are located in Libya,” military analyst Ljubodrag Stojadinovic told SETimes. He said several hundred well trained troops emerged from the Balkan wars, and are willing to use their expertise.
The mercenaries are driven by the promise of monetary gain, and not by politics or ideology, Stojadinovic added.
“The ‘dogs of war’ earn from 2,000 to 5,000 dollars or euros [per month], depending on who makes the offer and how they structure the arrangements,” he said.
According to Zoran, 45, who says he has fought in three international war theatres following the end of the Balkan conflicts, it is not difficult to find your way to a battlefield. Various “security agencies” hire qualified individuals and organise their transfer, he explained.
Mile Milosevic, president of Serbia’s War Veterans Association, described the mercs as professional soldiers who responded to offers — from the Gaddafi regime — for their services.
“If they were called by the Libyan rebels, they would have responded to the rebels,” Milosevic told SETimes.
Association members who spoke to SETimes said there is a regional network of contacts involved in arranging mercenary work. Some, they added, are connected to state security services.
Psychologist Filip Glisic agrees that money is a primary factor, but he says it is not the only one. Becoming a soldier of fortune also provides certain types of individuals with a sense of personal validation, he said.
“This is a very special profile of people. They would fight even for no money, to prove themselves or assert revenge,” Glisic told SETimes. “Those who go solely to escape poverty often become an easy prey on the batlefield.”
The father of Milorad Dunic, a 27-year-old from Loznica, says he fears for his son and is frustrated that the government is not helping.
“Milorad just told us he will earn good money,” he said, insisting that his son went to Libya as a construction worker, and not as a merc. He said he did not know the name of the company that made the hire, nor what kind of construction project was involved.