– by The Age
Mursitpinar: Jihadists have fought their way into the centre of the Syrian border town Kobane, while in Iraq more than 180,000 have fled fighting in Anbar province.
The breakthrough on Monday, nearly a month after the assault on the town on the Turkish frontier began, gave Islamic State half of Kobane, despite the desperate efforts of its Kurdish defenders, backed byUS-led air strikes.
US and Saudi warplanes targeted seven sites around Kobane, the US military said.
Fighting spread to less than a kilometre from the barbed wire frontier fence, with the jihadists carrying out three suicide car bomb attacks in the border zone, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Kobane has become a highly visible symbol of resistance to IS and its fall would give the jihadists control of a long stretch of the Turkey-Syria border. But concern has also been growing over Iraq, where IS fighters have been threatening to seize more territory.
Fighting in Iraq’s western Anbar province has forced up to 180,000 people to flee since the city of Hit fell to Islamic State militants earlier this month, the United Nations said on Monday.
IS fighters extended that advance by overrunning a military base the Iraqi army had abandoned eight kilometres west of Hit earlier on Monday, according to an army officer and members of a government-backed Sunni militia.
In Baghdad, three bombs exploded in Shiite parts of the capital on Monday, killing 30 people, police and medical officials said, continuing a wave of attacks targeting Iraq’s majority religious group.
There was no claim of responsibility for the bombings, but IS fighters earlier claimed a string of attacks in Baghdad on Sunday that left 45 dead.
As a result of the fighting and air strikes in Anbar, carried out by the Iraqi government and a US-led military coalition, up to 30,000 families or 180,000 individuals had fled Hit, the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.
In Kobane, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group reported more heavy fighting on Monday inside the city.
Rami Abderahman, of the Observatory, said IS militants had taken about half of the town.
“They now control the cultural centre, which means they have advanced further inside the town,” he said.
In a blow to US hopes, Turkey denied it had agreed to let the United States use its Incirlik air base in the fight against IS and sources at the Turkish Prime Minister’s office said talks on the subject were continuing.
The comments come after US national security adviser Susan Rice said Turkey had agreed to let forces from a US-led military coalition use its bases for activities inside Iraq and Syria and to train moderate Syrian rebels.
Syria’s air force, meanwhile, carried out strikes against rebels at more than double its usual rate on Monday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The intensified air strikes by President Bashar al-Assad’s government will add to the fear among Dr Assad’s opponents that he is taking advantage of the US strikes to crush other foes, including the “moderate opposition” that Washington backs.
The Observatory said the Syrian air force had struck 40 times on Monday in areas in Idlib and Hama provinces, including dropping oil drums packed with explosives and shrapnel. Typically, Damascus has carried out no more than 12 to 20 raids a day.