MURSITPINAR, Turkey (AFP) – Kurdish forces have thwarted a new attempt by Islamic State group fighters to cut off the Syrian town of Kobane from the border with Turkey before Iraqi Kurdish reinforcements can deploy.
The pre-dawn assault marked the fourth straight day the IS fighters had attacked the Syrian side of the border crossing as the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters prepare to head for Kobane, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The peshmerga forces are “ready to go”, but they are not expected to deploy to Kobane before Monday at the earliest, Kurdish news agency Rudaw reported.
“Technical issues” concerning their transit through Turkey still had to be resolved, Rudaw said without elaborating.
Kurdish forces, backed by US-led air strikes, have been holding out for weeks against an IS offensive around Kobane, which has become a high-profile symbol of efforts to stop the militant advance.
The US military said in its latest update that American warplanes carried out five air strikes near Kobane on Saturday and Sunday, destroying seven IS vehicles and an IS-held building.
Ground fighting for Kobane has killed more than 800 people since the IS offensive began on September 16, with the militants losing 481 fighters and the Kurds 313, said the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria for its information. Among the dead are 21 civilians, but the figures exclude IS losses to US-led air strikes, which the Pentagon has said run to “several hundred”.
The extremist assault prompted nearly all of the enclave’s population to flee, with some 200,000 refugees streaming over the border into neighbouring Turkey.
Last week, under heavy US pressure, Turkey unexpectedly announced it would allow the peshmerga fighters to cross its territory to join the fight for Kobane.
The main Syrian Kurdish fighting force in the town has close links with the outlawed rebel Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a three-decade insurgency in southeastern Turkey and Ankara had previously resisted calls to allow in reinforcements.
The Democratic Union Party (PYD) which dominates Kobane agreed to the offer of the peshmerga troops.