"Islamic State" fighters are assaulting Kurdish forces holding the Syrian city of Kobani, a monitoring group has said. The Islamist militia reportedly launched the attack with a suicide bombing near the Turkish border.
At least twelve people were killed and another 70 wounded in Kobani Thursday, when the "Islamic State" (IS) detonated a car bomb and launched an attack on the city, local hospital officials told Reuters by telephone.
The battle was still raging on Thursday morning, after an IS militant blew himself up near a Turkish border crossing, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
"Fierce clashes erupted afterwards in the center of the town and there are bodies lying in the streets," said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the London-based monitoring group, without giving a specific toll.
The Kurdish news agency Welati reported that Islamist militants infiltrated the Kurdish town disguised in the uniforms of Kurdish fighters and the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
The IS gunmen are firing "randomly at anyone walking in the street," according to Welati, as quoted by dpa. Civilian casualties are also reported.
Authorities inside Kobane appealed to civilians not to leave their homes until further notice, Welati said.
A Kurd forces official said the "Islamic State" militia was attacking the town from three sides. In addition, Syrian state TV claims that IS fighters came from Turkey. The Syrian regime had repeatedly accused Turkey of helping the anti-Assad rebels.
IS pushing back
The Kurdish militia YPG ("People's Protection Units") managed to drive the IS fighters out of the Syrian city in late January, supported by airstrikes from the US-led coalition. Around 1,200 IS fighters reportedly died in the battle, which marked a major milestone in the fight against the extremist group.
Following the victory at Kobani, the Kurdish forces have made advances into neighboring Raqqa province, which is considered the jihadis' stronghold. In recent days, the Kurd fighters seized the key town of Tal Abyad, also on the border with Turkey, and pushed towards IS's de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa city, in the Euphrates valley to the south.
Parallel to Thursday's attack on Kobani, IS fighters also wrested positions from the Syrian army in their assault on Hasaka. The northeastern Syrian city is divided into separate zones of control between Kurdish forces and the Assad regime.
dj/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa)