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Kurds hold ground in Kobani amid airstrikes

October 12, 2014

"Islamic State" fighters have faced strong resistance from Kurdish militia in Kobani, with some reports that the jihadists are on the backfoot. Islamists are shelling the center of the Syrian town on the Turkish border.

Luftangriff auf Kobane
Image: AFP/Getty Images/A. Messinis

Kobani was under heavy artillery and mortar fire as night fell on Sunday, with fierce clashes underway in the south and east of the town.

The Kurds were reported to be holding their ground, having already lost some parts of Kobani. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 36 "Islamic State" (IS) fighters died the previous day, all of them said to be foreign, while eight Kurdish fighters had died.

The British-based monitoring group went on to say that IS was taking heavy losses in Kobani, with the Kurds retaking some of the territory captured by the jihadists in recent days.

IS was said to have brought in reinforcements from Syria, and was concentrating much of its artillery fire on the town center.

"They are sending fighters without much combat experience," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said. "They are attacking on multiple fronts but they keep being repulsed, then countering and being pushed back again."

Airstrikes 'useful'

The Kobani town administration's deputy foreign minister, Idris Nassan told the DPA news agency the US-led airstrikes against IS had been "very useful" and that "some progress" had been made.

The airstrikes were said to have continued overnight and into Sunday, focused mainly on areas to the south and west of Kobani. The town's defense minister, Ismet Hassan, said IS fighters were still far away from the town's last remaining lifeline, the Turkish border station of Mursitpinar.

Hassan said the fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units still faced the problem of not having enough ammunition, with IS well-equipped after raids on Syrian and Iraqi military facilities.

'Some progress made'

Speaking at a press conference in Chile on Saturday, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said IS fighters were still in possession of some of the more strategic areas of the town.

"We are doing what we can do through our airstrikes to help drive back ISIL," Hagel said, using an alternative acronym for IS. "In fact, there has been some progress made."

The US escalated its airstrikes on the town, also known in Arabic as Ayn al-Arab, some four days ago.

Fighting in Kobani has forced more than 200,000 people to flee from in and around the town to Turkey, according to the government in Ankara.

The battle for Kobani could prove pivotal, with any failure for IS likely to damage the group's standing and ability to recruit foreign fighters.

Much of the fighting has taken place within view of Turkish tanks on the border, but Ankara has so far refused to intervene or allow its own ethnic Kurds to cross the border to Syria to fight. The policy has led to rioting across Turkey, with some 38 people killed in unrest this week.

rc/glb (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)