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IS pushes back against Kurds and Syrian army

June 25, 2015

'Islamic State' militants have launched a two-pronged surprise attack on Kurdish-held Kobani and Syrian forces in Hassakeh. Ankara rejects the accusation that Kobani attackers infiltrated the city from Turkey.

Türkei Grenze Syrien Kobane Soldaten Kämpfe Rauch
Image: Getty Images/AFP

Fighters belonging to the "Islamic State" (IS) executed dozens of civilians in a village near Kobani on Thursday, while a group of militants was engaged in heavy fighting with Kurdish forces in the border city itself, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

"Islamic State forces shot dead at least 23 people in the Kurdish village of Barkh Butan, including women and children and residents who had taken up arms to fight," said representatives of the London-based monitor group.

In addition, at least 15 people have been killed and 70 wounded in fighting in Kobani, according to local doctor Welat Omer, with at least two IS suicide bombers detonating car bombs during their assault on the city.

The jihadists were "roaming in cars firing at anything that moved in front of them, causing casualties among civilians who rushed to the streets to see what was going on," Idriss Nassan, a senior Kurdish official inside Kobane, told DPA.

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).

"Our fighters have contained the situation and are now chasing out the group of terrorists, who entered to create chaos and fear among the Kurdish civilians," Nassan said.

Crossing the line

Syrian Kurdish activist Arin Shekhmos told AFP in Beirut that the IS militants entered the city from Turkey, through the nearby Mursitpinar border crossing. Syrian state TV also reported that the IS forces came from the Turkish territory, without providing a source.

The reports were echoed by Turkish lawmaker Figen Yuksekdag, who is a co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party. Yuksekdag told reporters there was a "high probability" that the attackers had entered Kobani on Thursday by crossing the border.

"The Turkish government has supported ISIL for years. Today's massacre is a part of this support," Yuksekdag said.

Western states have in the past criticized Ankara for allegedly lax control of its Syrian border.

On Thursday, Turkey's foreign ministry spokesman strongly denied the allegations, describing the claims as "lies." Ankara officials instead claim that the fighters came from Jarabulus in Syria.

Push on Hassakeh

Also on Thursday, "Islamic State" militants stormed parts of Hassakeh in northeast Syria, reportedly taking control of at least two districts previously controlled by the government. The city is divided into separate zones held by Kurdish forces and the Assad regime.

The twin attacks Thursday follow the strategy adopted by IS, which compensates for the loss of ground by advancing in other directions. Recently, the "Islamic State" has suffered a string of bitter defeats, with Kurdish forces pushing closer to Raqqa city, which is a de facto IS capital.

dj/jil (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)