IS attacks Syrian regime and Kurds in surprise assault

IS attacks Syrian regime and Kurds in surprise assault
Islamic State fighters launched simultaneous attacks on Syrian regime and Kurdish forces overnight, with reports IS extremists expelling, killing, or detaining people in Hasaka.
2 min read
25 June, 2015
The fighting has displaced millions of Syrians. [Getty]

Islamic State militants launched two major attacks in northern Syria on Thursday, storming government-held areas in the mostly Kurdish city of Hassakeh and pushing into Kobane, the Syrian Kurdish border town they were expelled from early this year, where they set off three cars bombs, killing and wounding dozens, activists and officials said.

Islamic State said its fighters had seized al-Nashwa district and neighbouring areas in the southwest of Hasaka, a city divided into zones of government and Kurdish control. Government forces had withdrawn towards the city centre, it said in a statement.  

Syrian state TV said IS fighters were expelling residents from their homes in al-Nashwa, and either they kill people or detain them.

Government-held parts of Hasaka are one of President Bashar al-Assad's last footholds in the northeast region bordering Iraq and Turkey, territory mainly governed by Kurds since Syria descended into civil war in 2011.

IS tried to storm the city earlier this month and reached its southern outskirts before facing strong resistance from Syrian government troops who pushed them away. 

In Kobane, which famously resisted a months-long assault by the Islamic militants before driving them out in January, an activist group said 10 people died in fighting Thursday — the first time in six months the IS had managed to enter the town along the Syria-Turkey border.

The attacks on Hassakeh and Kobane came days after YPG fighters and their allies captured the Islamic State stronghold of Tal Abyad on the border with Turkey and the town of Ain Essa to the south. Kurdish fighters have been advancing since January under the cover of airstrikes by the US-led coalition.

"IS detonated a suicide bomb in the area near the border crossing with Turkey, killing at least five people," confirmed Rami Abdel Rahman director of Britian-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"Fierce clashes erupted afterwards in the centre of the town and there are bodies lying in the streets," he added, without giving a specific toll.    

He said fighting was still raging on Thursday morning. 

IS battled for some four months to seize Kobane but Kurdish fighters backed by US-led air strikes secured control of the border town in January in a symbolic defeat for the extremists.  

In the months since, forces of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) have advanced from Kobane in Aleppo province into neighbouring Raqqa province, Islamic State's stronghold.   

In recent days, they captured the strategic town of Tal Abyad, also on the border with Turkey, and pushed towards IS's de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa city in the Euphrates valley to the south.