PKK affiliates maintain presence in Sinjar under different names, Peshmerga commander says
A Peshmerga commander based in Sinjar in northern Iraq has said the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is maintaining its presence in Iraq’s Sinjar region despite Turkey’s calls for its evacuation, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
“PKK-affiliated armed groups have maintained their presence in Sinjar under different names in solidarity with the Hashd al-Shaabi,” Qasim Shesho said on March 28.
A predominantly Shia fighting force, the Hashd al-Shaabi was incorporated into the Iraqi armed forces in late 2016.
Shesho said Iraqi troops had been deployed in Sinjar and in the town of Sinun.
“It is uncertain when PKK-affiliated groups will leave Sinjar. More than 1,000 armed groups are present in Sinjar. Most of them include Yezidis,” he added.
The PKK first established a foothold in Sinjar in 2014 amid attacks on the Yezidi community by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
PKK presence in Sinjar threatens Turkey: US Defense Secretary Mattis
United States Defense Secretary James Mattis said on March 27 that the presence of the PKK in Sinjar is a “threat” to Turkey.
“There is a PKK threat in Sinjar, across the border in northern Iraq against Turkey,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon, noting that the group is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the U.S. wants the group to pull out of the area.
Mattis stressed that Turkey is a NATO ally and said he preferred direct communication with the Turkish authorities rather than through the media because it is “a very sensitive issue for the Turks.”
Anadolu Agency quoted Yalman Haceroğlu, the director-general of Turkmeneli TV, as saying that there are around 3,000 PKK militants in Sinjar, where they are being trained by several military experts.
On March 25, Iraqi troops were deployed in Sinjar after members of the PKK withdrew from the district a day earlier.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly vowed that Turkey will “not allow Sinjar to become a stronghold for the PKK.”
If the PKK does not vacate Sinjar and Qandil, where it has its headquarters, “it would be inevitable for us to do so personally,” Erdoğan said in a speech at the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) congress in the Black Sea province of Trabzon.
Iraqi troops deployed in Sinjar
Iraqi troops were deployed in Sinjar on March 24 after the PKK retreated, an Iraqi army spokesperson said.
“The 15th brigade of the army was deployed with heavy weapons in Sinjar and the town of Sinun,” Brigadier General Yahya Rasool said.