Syria border town Kobani.Islamic State fighters have seized more than a third of the Syrian border town of Kobani, a monitoring group says.

Highlights:

  • ISIS fighters seized Syrian border town, Kobani
  • There have been air strikes in the region, which has not deterred the group
  • ISIS controls more than a third of Kobani
  • Town’s defenders say the United States is giving only token support with its air strikes
  • S. Central Command said it had conducted five strikes near Kobani on Wednesday and Thursday
  • The strikes damaged an Islamic State training camp and destroyed a support building
  • Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, played down the chances of its forces going to the aid of Kobani.Islamic State is widely known as ISIS

Full Story

Thursday’s seizure of border towns by ISIS came as U.S.-led air strikes failed to halt their advance and Turkish forces looked on without intervening.

With Washington ruling out a ground operation in Syria, Turkey said it was unrealistic to expect it to mount a cross-border operation alone to relieve the mainly Kurdish town.

The U.S. military said Kurdish forces appeared to be holding out in the town, which lies within sight of Turkish territory, following fresh airstrikes in the area against a militant training camp and fighters.

However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Islamic State, still widely known by its former acronym of ISIS, had pushed forward on Thursday.

“ISIS control more than a third of Kobani – all eastern areas, a small part of the northeast and an area in the southeast,” said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Observatory, which monitors the Syrian civil war.

The commander of Kobani’s heavily outgunned Kurdish defenders confirmed that the militants had made major gains, after a three-week battle that has also caused the worst street clashes in years between Turkish police and Kurdish protesters.

Militia chief Esmat al-Sheikh put the area controlled by Islamic State, which controls large amounts of territory in Syria and neighboring Iraq, at about a quarter of the town. “The clashes are ongoing – street battles,” he said by telephone from the town.

Explosions

Explosions rocked Kobani throughout the day, with black smoke visible from the Turkish border a few kilometers (miles) away. Islamic State hoisted its black flag in the town overnight and a stray projectile landed 3 km (2 miles) inside Turkey.

The town’s defenders say the United States is giving only token support with its air strikes, while Turkish tanks sent to the frontier look on but do nothing to defend the town, where the United Nations says only a few hundred remain. Over 180,000 people from the city and surrounding area have fled into Turkey.

US air strikes

U.S. Central Command said it had conducted five strikes near Kobani on Wednesday and Thursday, and that Kurdish forces still appeared to control most of the town.

The strikes damaged an Islamic State training camp and destroyed a support building, as well as hitting one small unit and one large unit of militant fighters, Centcom said.

Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, played down the chances of its forces going to the aid of Kobani:

“It is not realistic to expect Turkey to conduct a ground operation on its own,” he told a joint news conference with visiting NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg. However, he added: “We are holding talks … Once there is a common decision, Turkey will not hold back from playing its part.”

Ankara resents suggestions from Washington that it is not pulling its weight, and wants broader joint action that also targets the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“We strongly reject allegations of Turkish responsibility for the ISIS advance,” said a senior Ankara government source.

“Our allies, especially the U.S. administration, dragged their feet for a very long time before deciding to take action against the catastrophic events happening in Syria,” he added.

Turkey has long advocated action against Assad during the civil war, which grew out of a popular uprising in 2011.

However, the United States called off air strikes on Damascus government forces at the last minute last year when Assad agreed to give up his chemical weapons. It has also managed so far to fly sorties across Syria with tacit consent from Assad.
NP/Reuters

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