Shells land in Turkey as clashes intensify around Kobane
This photo taken from Twitter reportedly shows a minibus damaged by mortar shells fired from Syria near Suruç, Şanlıurfa.Four mortar shells landed in Turkey near the border with Syria on Sept. 27, injuring two people, as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants clashed with Kurdish forces defending a Syrian border town, local officials and a Reuters witness said.
ISIL launched an offensive to try to capture the border town of Kobane more than a week ago, besieging it from three sides. More than 150,000 Kurds have fled the town and surrounding villages, crossing into Turkey.
One of the mortars blew a large hole in an empty minibus parked near Tavşanlı, a village close to Kobane.
Lawyer Onur Kale of Mersin Bar wrote on his Twitter account that a shell hit the minibus they were travelling in.
“Four mortar shells were fired to a village in Suruç. We do not have any safety here, we could be killed any time,” wrote Kale, who was reportedly in Suruç on the Turkish-Syrian border, and shared a photograph of a damaged minibus.
Authorities in the border province of Şanlıurfa have blocked the main road to the Syrian border as security worsens in the area, an official at the local governor's office told Ruters.
Kurdish forces said on Sept. 25 they had pushed back the advance on Kobane, also known as Ayn al-Arab, by ISIL fighters but appealed for U.S.-led air strikes to target the insurgents' tanks and heavy armaments.
"The clashes are moving between east, west and south of Kobane ... The three sides are active," İdris Nassan, deputy foreign minister for the Kobane canton, told Reuters by phone from the center of the town.
"They are trying hard to reach Kobane. There is resistance here by YPG, by Kobane and some volunteers from north Kurdistan - Turkish Kurds - who are coming to share in the efforts of Kobane. They have made a strong response," he said.
Kobane's strategic location has been blocking the ISIL fighters from consolidating their gains in northern Syria. The group tried to take the town in July but was repulsed by local forces backed by Kurdish fighters from Turkey.
'Everyone is armed'
"If they did come inside Kobane, everyone here is armed, they are armed and resisting. Even me, I am the deputy foreign minister here in Kobane canton but I am an armed man too. I am ready to defend Kobane," Nassan told Reuters.
"Every girl, every young man, every man who is able to fight, to carry a gun, they are armed and they are ready to defend and fight."
Turkey has been slow to respond to calls for a coalition to fight ISIL in Syria, worried in part about links between Syrian Kurds and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
The PKK has called on Turkey's Kurds to join the fight to defend Kobane and accused Ankara of supporting ISIL. Residents in the border area say hundreds of youths have done so, although Turkish security forces have been trying to keep them from crossing the frontier.
Turkey strongly denies it has given any form of support to the Islamist militants but Western countries say its open borders during Syria's three-year-old civil war allowed ISIL and other radical groups to grow in power.
The Turkish military has in the past fired back when shells from Syria's civil war strayed into Turkish territory, and the intensifying battle for Kobane is heightening pressure on Ankara to take a more robust stance against the insurgents.