Tags: Iraq | Syria | conflict | US

Kurds Thwart New Jihadist Bid to Cut off Syria Town

Saturday, 18 October 2014 09:52 PM

Kurdish forces in the Syrian town of Kobani repulsed a new attempt by Islamic State fighters to cut off the border with Turkey Saturday as troops battled the jihadists in neighboring Iraq.

It came as the U.S. military said it had unleashed 25 more air strikes in Syria and Iraq since Friday, hitting Islamic State jihadists and oil infrastructure they control.

But Washington warned the raids might not prevent the fall of Kobani, and its priority remained the campaign against ISIS in Iraq.

Despite a wave of coalition air strikes in recent weeks, Iraqi forces are struggling to regain and hold ground from jihadists.

Heavy ISIS mortar fire hit the Syrian side of the border crossing with Turkey which is the Kurdish fighters' sole avenue for resupply and the only escape route for remaining civilians, Kurdish official Idris Nassen told AFP.

At least three rounds crashed onto Turkey's side of the border, one of them near a hill where the Turkish army is deployed, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.

The jihadists launched a fierce attack from the east towards the border gate before being pushed back, Nassen said.

ISIS suffered heavy losses in the fighting and was forced to send in reinforcements, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The jihadists lost 21 of their people to air strikes and another 14 in ground fighting on Friday, the Britain-based monitoring group said. The Kurds lost three of their fighters.

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura warned earlier this month that about 12,000 civilians remained in and around Kobani and risked "massacre" if the jihadists cut off the border.

Overnight coalition air strikes on ISIS targets elsewhere in Syria killed 10 civilians, said the Observatory, which has a wide network of sources inside the country.

 

 

Of 15 air strikes in Syria since Friday, 12 were aimed at "degrading and destroying their oil producing, collecting, storage and transportation infrastructure," the U.S. Central Command said.

Three other strikes in Syria hit two ISIS fighting positions near Kobani and a military camp in mainly jihadist-held Raqa province.

The U.S. commander overseeing the air war hailed "encouraging" signs in the defense of Kobani, but said the town could still fall and that Iraq remained the coalition's priority.

"Iraq is our main effort and it has to be, and the things that we're doing right now in Syria are being done primarily to shape the conditions in Iraq," said General Lloyd Austin.

In Baghdad, MPs on Saturday approved defense and interior ministers after weeks of delay.

Khaled al-Obaidi, a Sunni who was named defense minister, was a senior officer in the air force of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

Gaining some level of support from Iraq's Sunni Arab minority, many members of which are deeply mistrustful of the Shiite-led government and view the armed forces as an instrument of repression, will be key to pushing ISIS back.

The American secretary of state congratulated Iraq's Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi.

"We had a very positive step forward in Iraq today," said John Kerry. "These were critical positions to be filled, in order to assist with organizing the effort" against ISIS.

On Saturday, Spain announced it would begin training Iraqi forces later this year to battle Islamic State fighters.

 

© AFP 2019

   
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Kurdish forces in the Syrian town of Kobani repulsed a new attempt by Islamic State fighters to cut off the border with Turkey Saturday as troops battled the jihadists in neighboring Iraq.It came as the U.S. military said it had unleashed 25 more air strikes in Syria and...
Iraq, Syria, conflict, US
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2014-52-18
Saturday, 18 October 2014 09:52 PM
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