Iraqi Shiite Turkmen gunmen stand on their vehicle, as they go to patrol around their front line village of Taza Khormato, in the northern oil rich province of Kirkuk, Iraq June 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
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In the Iraqi town of Taza Khurmatu, a motley brigade of Shiite Turkmen locals adjust their weapons and headscarves before heading out to defend their homes from encroaching Sunni militants.Then, this month, insurgents led by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) group overran swathes of five provinces north and west of Baghdad.They attacked the area around Taza Khurmatu, seizing the neighboring Shiite Turkmen town of Basheer, and the Sahwa force swelled with new volunteers.In Taza Khurmatu, Shiite professions of faith and icons of the sect's most revered figures feature as prominently as the Iraqi Turkmen flag, a light blue banner with a white crescent and star.Many of the men in the town cite religion as a reason for joining up, and particularly a call from top Iraqi Shiite Sheikh Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.Publicly, both sides proclaim "100 percent cooperation" but the alliance is an uneasy one thanks to longstanding tensions between Iraqi Kurds and Turkmen in the region.Peshmerga and Turkmen forces say that they included a child and three women who were shot in the head.
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