Yilmaz Najar commands 4,000 Turkmen fighters fighting Daesh in northern Iraq.
As the commander of the 16th Brigade of the largely Shia Muslim al-Hashd al-Shaabi militia, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, Najar is preparing his men for the expected assault to retake Mosul from Daesh militants.
The city, Iraq’s second largest, was seized by Daesh in June last year. Following this success the extremists went on to target Turkmen towns such as Tal Afar, 60 kilometers (38 miles) to the west of Mosul, and Amirli, between Baghdad and Kirkuk.
“Our armed forces consist of 4,000 fighters,” Najar told Anadolu Agency. “The forces fight against Daesh in Kirkuk, Amirli, Tuz Khormato, Bashir and Daquq, which mostly have population of Turkmen people. There are also Sunni Turkmen fighters in our forces.”
He added: “We established the 16th Brigade because of the serious need to combat Daesh after it had seized Amirli.”
Turkmen are a Turkic ethnic group that is the third largest in Iraq after Arabs and Kurds. Members of the community, which is primarily found in northern Iraq, are both Sunni and Shia Muslims.
As well as the 4,000 Shia fighters under Najar’s command, another 1,500 Sunni Turkmen have been armed by al-Hashd al-Shaabi, including 800 from Tal Afar. They are expected to take part in the offensive to recapture Mosul, a primarily Sunni city.
Operationally the Turkmen forces, some trained by Turkish troops, have been supporting Iraqi government forces and Kurdish peshmerga as they attempt to push back Daesh in the area around Kirkuk.
Najar rejected calls by the Iraqi Turkmen Front for a unified Turkmen armed group, arguing that his group was bringing together Sunni and Shia Turkmen fighters.