Kurds Halt ’ISIL’ Thrust into Heart of Syria’s Kobane
Kurdish fighters thwarted a bid by the “ISIL” group to advance into the center of the battleground Syrian town of Kobane early on Saturday.
The attack came after the “ISIL” militants overran Kurdish headquarters in the border town on Friday, sparking fears they would cut off the last escape route to neighboring Turkey for hundreds of mainly elderly civilians still in the town center.
The “ISIL” assault sparked 90 minutes of heavy fighting with the town’s Kurdish defenders before the extremists fell back.
In parallel, US-led coalition warplanes also carried out two air strikes on “ISIL” targets south and east of the town early Saturday.
Small groups of Kurdish fighters were trying to harry the encircling extremists with operations across the front line.
This comes as UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura warned Friday that 12,000 or so civilians still in or near Kobane, including 700 mainly elderly people in the town centre, “will most likely be massacred” by “ISIL” if the town falls.
Kobane was “literally surrounded” except for one narrow entry and exit point to the Turkish border, de Mistura said.
Earlier reports mentioned that “ISIL” militants have captured the headquarters of Kurdish fighters defending the Syrian border town of Kobani.
Outgunned Kurdish militia were struggling to prevent the extremists closing off the last escape route for civilians still in the area, prompting an appeal Friday for urgent military assistance.
Washington also warned that the military campaign could lead to reprisal attacks “against US, Western and coalition partner interests throughout the world.”
The extremists’ advance has brought the front line to just 1.3 kilometers from the Turkish border but Ankara has so far refrained from any action against the extremists.
Four straight nights of protests among Turkey’s large Kurdish minority have left 31 people dead as anger flared over the government’s lack of action to save Kobani.
“ISIL” now controls 40 percent of the town.
As fighting raged, an “ISIL” suicide bomber struck to the west of the Kurdish headquarters in Kobani killing two people, and 10 Kurds were killed in an “ISIL” ambush on the south side of town.
US planes conducted nine new airstrikes in Syria Thursday and Friday, the US military said.
Kobane activist Mustafa Ebdi said the “ISIL “militants were using civilian cars with Kurdish flags to avoid coming under attack by coalition aircraft.
He said the risk of Kobani falling was high, and described the town as a “symbol of resistance to ISIL in Syria.”
“Every Kurdish fighter is willing to die,” he said.
The situation is complicated by the close ties between the town’s Kurdish defenders and the Kurdistan Workers Party, which has waged a three-decade insurgency for self-rule in southeastern Turkey.
Ankara has been deeply reluctant to allow weapons or Kurdish fighters to cross the border.