Turkey's president says Ankara will allow hundreds of Syrian rebels to join Kurdish forces defending Kobani from "Islamic State" militants. There are also plans for 200 peshmerga fighters from Iraq to travel to the town.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Kurdish forces in Kobani would soon receive reinforcements in the form of 1,300 fighters from the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA).
The FSA rebels are expected to join an estimated 2,000 Syrian Kurds fighting "Islamic State" (IS) for control of the embattled town of Kobani on the Syrian-Turkish border. Kobani, known in Arabic as Ayn al-Arab, has been under siege by IS militants since mid-September, when the jihadists effectively encircled the town and began using armored vehicles and tanks to push south towards the Turkish border.
The Syrian Kurds have "accepted 1,300 people from the Free Syrian Army and they are holding talks to determine the transit route," Erdogan told reporters in the Estonian capital, Tallin.
However, the co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish PYD, the main group defending Kobani, told news agency Reuters no deal had yet been reached on the passage of the fighters.
"We already established connection with FSA but no such agreement has been reached yet," Saleh Muslim said.
Reinforcements from Syria and Iraq
Ankara has resisted supplying weapons to help Syrian Kurds, mainly because of their links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey that has left thousands of people dead. Earlier this week, however, Turkey agreed to facilitate travel for 200 peshmerga forces from Iraq through Turkey to help defend Kobani.
According to a senior official in Iraq's Kurdistan region, quoted by Reuters, the peshmerga reinforcements would be armed with heavier equipment than is now used by Kurdish fighters in Kobani, who have appealed for more armor-piercing weapons to push IS back.
Speaking in Tallinn on Friday, Erdogan added that the FSA - backed by Turkey throughout the group's three-year civil war with Bashar Al Assad - was the preferred source of back-up for for Kobani defenders.
"As you know, in our talks with Obama we had agreed that the FSA could be the first choice and the second choice could be peshmerga," Erdogan said.
IS militants now control large parts of Syria and Iraq in their bid to establish an Islamic "caliphate" in the Middle East. The jihadists have carried out widespread atrocities during their onslaught, including enslaving women, killing and torturing civilians, and beheading hostages. Much of the support for Kurdish fighters in Kobani has thus far come from a US-led coalition conducting airstrikes against the militants.
According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the strikes in Syria had killed more than 550 people, the vast majority of them militants.
nm/jr (AP, Reuters)