Kurdish militia battle IS at border

Published: Wednesday 15th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Kurdish militiamen have fought pitched street battles with Islamic State (IS) extremists in a Syrian border town near Turkey, following intensified US-led coalition air strikes targeting the militants.

In Kobani, members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, advanced hours after the bombardment against IS was stepped up in and around the town, according to Asya Abdullah, a Syrian Kurdish leader.

The Pentagon said 21 air strikes against Islamic State targets near Kobani on Monday night had marked the largest number there in a 24-hour period since the air campaign in Syria began last month.

Mr Abdullah, the co-president of Syria’s powerful Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, said Kurdish fighters have advanced near the hill of Tel Shair that overlooks part of the town, taking advantage of the air raids that slowed the push by the militants.

Elsewhere in Syria, in a stark reminder of the country’s wider civil war, a Syrian politician was gunned down in the central province of Hama – the latest assassination to target a figure linked to president Bashar Assad’s government.

In the restive central province of Hama, gunmen opened fire at Waris al-Younes’ car as he was travelling on a road linking the city of Hama with the town of Salamiyeh, according to the state-run Sana news agency.

No-one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Several Syrian officials have been assassinated since Syria’s crisis began in March 2011. The uprising, which later turned into a civil war, has killed more than 190,000 people, according to the United Nations.

In mid-September, IS launched its offensive on Kobani – also known under its Arabic name, Ayn Arab – and captured dozens of nearby Kurdish villages, as well as about a third of the town.

Fighting in and around Kobani has killed more than 500 people and forced more than 200,000 people to flee across the border into Turkey.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists around the country, said Wednesday’s clashes took place in the eastern areas of Kobani as well as the southern edge of the town.

The Observatory also reported several air strikes by the US-led coalition in the town on Wednesday, and plumes of smoke rising from the strikes were visible across the border in Turkey.

Syria’s foreign ministry dismissed Turkey’s calls for a no-fly zone on the Syrian territories as a “flagrant violation” of the UN charter and international law.

“Syria categorically rejects the establishment of no-fly zones on any part of the Syrian territories under any pretext,” the ministry said.

Turkey has said it will not join the fight against the Islamic State extremists in Syria unless the US-led coalition also goes after Mr Assad’s government, including establishing a no-fly zone and a buffer zone along the Turkish border.

Meanwhile, Syria’s main western-backed opposition group – the Syrian National Coalition – wrapped up five days of meetings in Turkey.

During the sessions, they re-elected opposition’s interim prime minister Ahmed Touma to the post he has held since last year.

The coalition has tried to organise governance in opposition-held territories in northern Syria but its interim government formed last year has been ineffective and beset by divisions.

The opposition-held areas have descended into chaos and infighting, mostly between rebel factions and members of the Islamic State group that now controls large parts of Syria and Iraq.

Published: Wednesday 15th October 2014 by The News Editor

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