Syrian Kurd leader sees war of 'attrition' in Kobane

Syrian Kurd leader sees war of 'attrition' in Kobane

BEIRUT - Reuters
Syrian Kurd leader sees war of attrition in Kobane

Kurdish men gather at a cemetery during the funerals in Suruç of three Kurdish fighters who died in clashes with ISIL. AFP Photo / Bülent Kılıç

The battle for the Syrian town of Kobane will turn into a war of attrition unless Kurds defending it from an the onslaught of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants get arms that can repel tanks and armoured vehicles, a Syrian Kurdish leader told a pan-Arab newspaper.

ISIL fighters encircled the town near the Turkish border more than a month ago and are using weapons including tanks and armoured vehicles seized in Iraq to attack Kurds equipped mainly with light arms.

The United States, which has been leading air strikes against ISIL in Syria and Iraq, airdropped weapons to the Kurds in Kobane on Oct. 19 that U.S. officials described as "small arms.

"(It's) attrition for both sides unless something in the situation changes," Salih Muslim, head of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in remarks published on Oct. 24.

He said the Kurds had recently received information that ISIL wanted to fire chemical weapons into Kobane using mortars. He said the militant group had surrounded the town with around 40 tanks.

"If we were to receive qualitative [stronger] weapons, we would be able to hit the tanks and armoured vehicles that they use - we may be able to bring a qualitative change in the battle," he said.

Asked about the recent arms air drop and the U.S.-led strikes, he said: "They are not enough to change the balance of power, but if they continue then they can bring about a change. Air raids so far are limited."

Muslim reiterated his accusations against Ankara of supporting the ultra-radical ISIL, saying it had turned a blind eye when 120 ISIL fighters crossed the border from Turkey earlier this week.

Ankara denies aiding militants but has been loath to enable any help for Syrian Kurds who have links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that has waged a three-decade separatist insurgency in Turkey.

But Turkey has come under U.S. pressure to do more and on OCt. 23 President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said an agreement had been reached on sending 200 peshmerga from Iraq through Turkey to help defend Kobane.

A senior official in Iraq's Kurdistan region said they would be equipped with heavier weapons than those being used by Syrian Kurds already there.

Asked about the prospect of Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces joining the battle for Kobane, Muslim said none had arrived yet and talks were continuing on a technical level.

On Oct. 24, Erdoğan said the Kurdish PYD had agreed to the passage of 1,300 Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters to Kobane to reinforce Kurdish forces there.