Iraqi Peshmerga fighters enter Kobane

Iraqi Peshmerga fighters enter Kobane
Kurdish forces join the battle against IS in Kobane while Turkey accuses West of focusing too much on the border town.
2 min read
01 November, 2014
Kobane's defenders have been crying out for reinforcements [Getty]

Iraqi Peshmerga forces on Saturday were preparing to join the battle against the Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as ISIS) in the Syrian border town of Kobane.

Roughly 150 Iraqi fighters were understood to have entered Kobane late on Friday, bringing with them badly needed heavy weaponry including artillery, automatic rifles and anti-tank missiles.

The Peshmerga and the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) already in the town have prepared a role for the Iraqi-Kurdish fighters, said Sharosh Hassan, a YPG spokesman.

"The priority will be to recapture Kobane neighbourhoods that were taken by [IS] and then the goal is to liberate all villages in the countryside of Kobane," said Hassan.

Kobane has become a key battle ground whose capture would be a major prize for IS, giving them unbroken control of a long stretch of Syria's border with Turkey.

Clashes in and around the town have left about 100 IS fighters dead in the past three days, according to the London-based opposition group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria, said that 15 Kurdish fighters also lost their lives on Friday.

Since IS launched its assault on Kobane in mid-September 576 IS militants, 361 Kurdish fighters and 21 civilians have been killed, the Observatory said.

The fighting led more than 200,000 residents - predominantly Kurdish - to flee Kobane and neighbouring areas for the refuge of Turkey.

IS fighters launched another offensive Friday night on YPG-held areas in Kobane but failed to advance, said the Observatory.

Gunfire and explosions were heard on Saturday morning although the Peshmerga forces were not thought to have yet joined the fighting.  

Turkish frustration

The town has become a symbol of the US-led coalition fight against IS which has captured swathes of Syria and Iraq and declared an Islamic caliphate.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, took aim at Western leaders for focusing too much on the battle for Kobane.

"Why are coalition forces continually bombing this town of Kobane?" he asked on Friday in Paris.

"We talk about nothing other than Kobane which is on the Turkish border and where there is no one left any more except 2,000 people fighting."

Ankara's decision to allow the Peshmerga and dozens of lightly armed Free Syrian Army rebels to cross into Syria has angered Damascus.

The Syrian regime denounced the move as a "flagrant violation of Syrian sovereignty".

The multi-faceted Syrian war has killed more than 180,000 people and forced millions from their homes since it began thee and a half years ago as an uprising against the authoritarian regime of Bashar al-Assad.