human rights watch

onsdag 24 september 2014

Air strikes hit IS jihadists near besieged Kurdish town in Syrian Kurdistan

Air strikes hit IS jihadists near besieged Kurdish town in Syrian Kurdistan.
BEIRUT,—  The US-led coalition has launched raids against jihadists near a Kurdish town in Syrian Kurdistan surrounded by Islamic State fighters, a monitoring group said Wednesday.

Planes carried out several strikes on IS positions and supply lines west of the northern border Kurdish town of Kobani [Ain al-Arab in Arabic], according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Syrian state news agency SANA reported "US and allied planes also launched raids on the outskirts of Ain al-Arab town in northern Aleppo,".

The strikes took place just before and after midnight on Wednesday, it said.

Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the warplanes that carried out the raids around 30-35 km (19-22 miles) west of the city of Kobani had come from the direction of Turkey.

Abdulrahman said it was not clear which country had carried out the strikes, although the planes were not believed to be from the Syrian air force, he said. Abdulrahman's Observatory gathers its information from a network of sources across Syria.

A local official in central Kobani said he had not heard any air strikes close to the town overnight, but that fighting continued between Kurdish forces and Islamic State, which has been trying to consolidate its territory across northern Syria.

Idris Nassan, deputy minister for foreign affairs in the Kobani canton, said Islamic State remained around 15 km from the town in the east and west but had advanced in the south to within 10 km after heavy clashes with Kurdish forces.

"Now I hear the noise of mortars in the south," he told Reuters by telephone. "Islamic State gathered heavy forces there. So did the YPG but Islamic State pushed them back." 

The Britain-based monitor said planes crossed into Syria from Turkish airspace and hit IS positions and supply lines west of the border town.

But Turkey denied that either its airspace or air bases on its territory had been used in the strikes.

"The answer is clear: Neither the (Turkish) airspace nor the Incirlik (air base) were used," an official told AFP in Ankara.

Incirlik, in southern Turkey, is used by both US and Turkish forces.

Turkey has so far remained hesitant to play an active role in the US-led coalition to defeat IS militants, though it has expressed abstract support for its mission.

The YPG is the main Kurdish armed group.

Redur Xelil, spokesman for the YPG, said Islamic State was still pushing to take the town, despite the start of U.S.-led air strikes against the group in Syria.

"They did not withdraw from any positions and the battles are still continuing at their most intense level in Kobani and also in Serekaniye [Ras al-Ayn]," he said, referring to Syrian Kurdish territory further east along the border.

The raids came after the first strikes by Washington and its Arab allies on Tuesday against the Islamic State group in other parts of Syria.

At least 120 jihadists from IS and Al-Qaeda in Syria, as well as eight civilians, have been killed in the strikes so far.

The raids around Kobani come a week after IS militants began a fierce assault against the strategic border town, which is Syria's third-largest Kurdish town in Syrian Kurdistan.

IS seized at least 64 Kurdish villages surrounding the town in several days of fighting as it advanced towards the town, prompting more than 130,000 civilian Kurds to flee across the border into Turkey.

In recent days, Kurdish fighters have managed to slow the jihadist advance.

Copyright ©, respective author or news agency,  Reuters | AFP

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