ISIL seizes one third of Kobane: Monitor
MÜRŞİTPINAR / BEIRUT - Reuters
Smoke rises during airstrikes on Kobane, seen from the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern village of Mürşitpınar, Şanlıurfa province, on Oct. 8. AFP Photo / Aris MessinisFighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have seized more than a third of the Syrian border town of Kobane despite U.S.-led air strikes targeting them in and around the mainly Kurdish community, a monitoring group said on Oct. 9.
The commander of Kobane's heavily outgunned Kurdish defenders said ISIL controlled a slightly smaller area. However, he acknowledged that the militants had made major gains in the culmination of a three-week battle that has also led to the worst streets clashes in years between police and Kurdish protesters across the frontier in southeast Turkey.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the country's civil war, said ISIS - another acronym for ISIL - had pushed forward on Oct. 9. "ISIS control more than a third of Kobane. All eastern areas, a small part of the northeast and an area in the southeast," the Observatory's head, Rami Abdulrahman, said.
Esmat al-Sheikh, head of the Kurdish militia forces in Kobane, said Islamic State fighters had seized about a quarter of the town in the east. "The clashes are ongoing - street battles," he told Reuters by telephone from the town.
An explosion was heard on Oct. 10 on the western side of Kobani, with thick black smoke visible from the Turkish border a few kilometers away. ISIL hoisted its black flag inside the town overnight and a stray projectile landed 3 km inside Turkey.
The sound of a jet flying overhead and sporadic gunfire from the besieged town was audible.
The United Nations says only a few hundred inhabitants remain in Kobani but the town's defenders say the battle will end in a massacre if ISIL overruns the town, giving it a strategic garrison on the Turkish border.
They complain that the United States is giving only token support through the air strikes, while Turkish tanks sent to the frontier are looking on but doing nothing to defend the town.
Twenty-one people died in Istanbul, Ankara and the mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey on Oct. 7 in the clashes between security forces and Kurds demanding that the government do more to help Kobane.
In Washington, the Pentagon cautioned on Oct. 7 that there are limits to what the air strikes can do in Syria before Western-backed, moderate Syrian opposition forces are strong enough to repel ISIL.
ISIL has also seized large areas of territory in neighbouring Iraq, where the United States has focused its air attacks on the militants.
President Barack Obama has ruled out sending American ground forces on a combat mission, and Secretary of State John Kerry offered little hope to Kobane's defenders on Oct. . "As horrific as it is to watch in real time what is happening in Kobane ... you have to step back and understand the strategic objective," he said.