18 Oct 2014

Air strikes pound IS as Kurds make gains in Kobani

Spectacular explosions rock Kobani as coalition jets continue to target Islamic State militants. Kurdish fighters are filmed celebrating after recapturing territory in and around the Syrian town.

Coalition air strikes rock Kobani (Reuters)

Massive clouds of smoke were sign rising from the Syrian Kurdish town on Saturday as the US-led coalition pounded IS targets at least six times.

The Islamists hit Kobani with a fierce barrage of shells after apparently being pushed back by Kurdish defenders in recent days.

Shells landed in the town centre and over the nearby border with Turkey as IS hit back.

IS have been trying to take the town for a month to consolidate a 60-mile stretch of land they control along the Syrian/Turkish border.

But lightly-armed Kurdish YPG fighters have held up the advance, helped by air strikes.

Explosions as jets hit IS positions (Reuters)

Several Kurdish officials have been quoted by local media sources as saying that the YPG is now effectively in control of Kobani and the surrounding villages, though other sources were more cautious, saying fighting continued on the outskirts of the town.

Video posted to social media sites appeared to show Kurdish forces celebrating at various locations near Kobani and holding what looked like a victory parade. Other footage showed the apparent capture of IS guns, shells and ammunition.

Kurds living across the border in Turkey continued to watch the drama unfold as coalition jets were seen circling the town.

Shelling goes on

Witnesses said intense shelling by IS – also commonly referred to as ISIS – continued after the air strikes.

Coalition jet circles above Kobani (Reuters)

A YPG commander identified by the code name would only gave her code name Dicle said the renewed attacks were aimed at severing the town’s last link with Turkey via the Mursitpinar border gate.

She said: “They want to cut off Kobani’s connection with the rest of the world. Turkey is not allowing in fighters or weapons, but they send aid at Mursitpinar.

“The Islamic State wants to destroy this gate so that we will be completely trapped here.”

Observers watch the battle for Kobani from across the Turkish border (Reuters)

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said IS had launched at least 21 mortar attacks on Saturday close to the border.

IS ‘has been broken’

In an interview with Kurdish media on Friday, YPG commander Mehm├╗d Berxwedan was quoted as saying: “Over the last three days we are no longer pulling back, and going forward step by step.

“ISIS is finished. They are tired. They decreased in strength. Their power has been destroyed and their operation strength broken.

“The force which they brought up has also been destroyed. I am saying this without exaggeration. On every street of Kobani are the corpses of ISIS fighters.”

Flames and smoke rise from Kobani (Reuters)

He repeated calls for Turkey to open its border to allow reinforcements and ammunition to reach the town.

Turkey has so far resisted calls to intervene to help the Kurdish militants, who are allied to the PKK separatists Ankara considers terrorists.