MURSITPINAR, Turkey (AFP) – Kurdish fighters backed by a flurry of US-led air strikes were still holding out Thursday against extremists in Kobane, as an Islamic State offensive on the Syrian border town entered its second month.
IS militants have also been beaten back this week from Amriyat al-Fallujah, a key city just west of Baghdad, but the US military denied the Iraqi capital was in “imminent” danger.
The Americans said they held direct talks at the weekend in Paris with the main Syrian Kurdish group whose forces have been battling IS, adding they had yet to discuss arming the fighters.
The Kurds claimed to have pushed IS back in parts of Kobane, but the Pentagon warned that the multinational strikes may not prevent the town’s fall even though hundreds of extremists are thought to have been killed.
Mortar and heavy machinegun fire rang out later as IS appeared to have relaunched its bid to cut the town off from the Turkish border, said an AFP correspondent across the frontier.
Despite intensified strikes on Kobane this week by the United States and its Arab allies, the Kurds are calling for increased firepower in the battle for the strategic town.
“We need more air strikes, as well as weaponry and ammunition to fight them on the ground,” said Idris Nassen, an official in Kobane.
An estimated 200,000 mainly Kurdish Syrians have fled the IS onslaught for the relative safety of Turkey.
A grocer who had escaped offered insight Thursday into those fighting for IS, saying that one they had captured, an Azerbaijani in his 20s, had even asked to be killed.
“He begged us to kill him so he could go to paradise and be rewarded,” said Cuneyt Hemo, adding that the extremist was held for a day and then shot dead.
Islamic State is also battling to control other parts of Syria, including Hasakeh province, where Kurdish fighters killed 20 extremists Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Kurdish forces have suffered heavy losses since IS launched its offensive on the Kobane area in mid-September, but so too have the extremists.
As of Wednesday, ground clashes alone had killed 662 people since September 16, including 20 civilians, the Observatory said.