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Iraqi Kurds join fight against IS in Kobani

By Reuters - Nov 02,2014 - Last updated at Nov 02,2014

BEIRUT/MURSITPINAR, Turkey  — Iraqi Kurdish fighters have joined the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants in Kobani, hoping their support for fellow Kurds backed by US-led air strikes will keep the ultra-hardline group from seizing the Syrian border town.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the civil war, said heavy clashes erupted in Kobani and that both sides had suffered casualties, while the US military said it had launched more air raids on IS over the weekend.

Idriss Nassan, deputy minister for foreign affairs in Kobani district, said Iraqi Kurds using long-range artillery had joined the battle on Saturday night against IS, which holds parts of Syria and Iraq as part of an ambition to redraw the map of the Middle East.

 

“The peshmerga joined the battle late yesterday and it made a big difference with their artillery. It is proper artillery,” he told Reuters.

“We didn’t have artillery we were using mortars and other locally made weapons. So this is a good thing.”

Nassan did not elaborate and it was not immediately possible to verify that progress against IS had been made.

The arrival of the 150 Iraqi fighters — known as peshmerga or “those who confront death” — marks the first time Turkey has allowed troops from outside Syria to reinforce Syrian Kurds, who have been defending Kobani for more than 40 days.

 

All eyes on Kobani

 

“They are supporting the YPG. They have a range of semi-heavy weapons,” said Jabbar Yawar, secretary general of the peshmerga ministry in the Kurdish region in northern Iraq, referring to the main Syrian Kurdish armed group.

Eyewitnesses in the Mursitpinar area on the Turkish side of the border from Kobani said two rockets were fired on Saturday night.

A Reuters witness said fighting on Sunday was heavier than in the last two days, noting a strike in the late morning and the sound of three explosions.

Attention has focused on Kobani, seen as key test of the effectiveness of American air strikes, and of whether combined Kurdish forces can fend off IS, an Al Qaeda offshoot made up of Arabs and foreign fighters.

Air strikes have helped to foil several attempts by IS, notorious for its beheading of hostages and opponents, to take over Kobani.

But they have done little to stop its advances, in particular in Sunni areas of western Iraq, where it has been executing hundreds of members of a tribe that resisted its territorial gains.

In their latest air strikes, US military forces staged seven attacks on IS targets in Syria on Saturday and Sunday and were joined by allies in two more attacks in Iraq, the US Central Command said.

In the Kobani area, five strikes hit five small IS units, while two strikes near Dayr Az Zawr 240km to the southeast in Syria destroyed an IS tank and vehicle shelters.

US and partner nations hit small IS units near the Iraqi cities of Baiji and Fallujah.

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