25 Jun 2015

Islamic State twin assault on Kobani and al-Hasakah

The Islamic State group returns to attack the Syrian border town of Kobani, five months after it was driven out by Kurdish forces. IS is also moving on districts of al-Hasakah, in eastern Syria.

CCTV footage of two car bomb attacks in Kobani, for which IS has claimed responsibility

At least 20 Kurdish civilians were killed and 15 more wounded in an Islamic State group attack on a village south of Kobani, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the London-based information service. Five IS fighters were killed.

Islamic State (IS) is also reported to have launched an attack on Kobani itself. The militant jihadist group has claimed responsibility for two suicide bomb attacks in the two (see video above).

At dawn Isis fighters penetrated into the heart of the city of Kobani. IS statement

A statement on an IS news agency website said: “At dawn Isis fighters penetrated into the heart of the city of Kobani… and were able to take control of the crossing point with Turkey, as well as other positions inside the city.

“This followed suicide missions targeting the Kurdish military units in the area.”

Fierce clashes

SOHR says fierce clashes erupted in centre of the town, which is close to Syria’s border with Turkey. Up to 30 people are reported to have been killed and dozens injured in the car bombings.

They opened fire randomly on everyone they found. Kurdish military spokesman on the IS attack on Kobani

Syrian state TV said the IS fighters who carried out the deadly assault on Kobani had entered Syria from Turkey, although it did not give a source for its newsflash.

Turkey’s foreign minister strongly denied allegations that IS militants attacked from his country.

Deceptive flag

Redur Xelil, a spokesman for the YPG Kurdish military group, said IS had entered Kobani from the west in five cars, deceptively flying the flag of the western-backed Free Syrian Army.

“They opened fire randomly on everyone they found,” he told Reuters.

IS battled for some four months to seize Kobani, but Kurdish fighters, backed by US-led air strikes, secured control of the border town in January in a symbolic defeat for the jihadists.

Syria has frequently accused regional opponent Turkey of supporting and equipping Sunni islamist militants. Turkey denies the charge.

Read more on the battle for the Syrian border town of Kobani

Overnight fighting

The Islamic State group has also wrested two districts of the north eastern Syrian city of al-Hasakah from government control in overnight fighting, according to the SOHR.

Fighters are reported to have seized the al-Nashwa district and neighbouring areas in the south west of the city. Syrian state TV said IS was expelling al-Nashwa residents from their homes, executing people and detaining them.

Al-Hasakah is divided into zones controlled separately by the Damascus government and a Kurdish administration. Syrian government-held parts of Hasakah are one of President al-Assad’s last footholds in the north east region of the country, bordering Iraq and Turkey.

A Syrian military source denied the report, saying the army had repelled the attack.

Losing ground, then advancing

The IS attacks follow two weeks that saw the Kurds advance deep into the jihadi group’s territory, to within 50km of Raqqa, its de facto capital.

The US and European and Arab allies have been bombing IS since last year.

Islamic State has adopted a tactic of advancing elsewhere when it loses ground.

Syria map showing Kobani and al-Hasakah