Saturday 20 January 2018

US-led coalition hit Islamic State fighters in Syria

Planes strike near Kurdish town but Syria says airpower alone not enough

TIDE OF MISERY: Syrian Kurdish refugees wait at the Turkish border. Photo credit: REUTERS/Murad Sezer
TIDE OF MISERY: Syrian Kurdish refugees wait at the Turkish border. Photo credit: REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Bassem Mroue

US-led coalition warplanes struck Islamic State fighters in Syria attacking a town near the Turkish border for the first time yesterday, as well as positions in the country's east, activists and a Kurdish official said.

The Islamic State (IS)group's assault on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani has sent more than 100,000 refugees streaming across the border into Turkey in recent days, as Kurdish forces from Iraq and Turkey have raced to the front lines to defend the town.

Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for Syria's Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, said the strikes targeted IS positions near Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, destroying two tanks.

He said the jihadi fighters later shelled the town, wounding a number of civilians.

The United States and five Arab allies launched an aerial campaign against IS fighters in Syria last Tuesday, with the aim of rolling back and ultimately crushing the extremist group, which has created a proto-state spanning the Syria-Iraq border.

Along the way, the militants have massacred or captured Syrian and Iraqi troops, terrorised minorities in both countries and beheaded two American journalists and a British aid worker.

The latest airstrikes came as Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV that airstrikes alone "will not be able to wipe out" the ISgroup.

Speaking from New York where he is attending the UN General Assembly, al-Moallem said in remarks broadcast yesterday that the US should work with Damascus if it wants to win the war.

"They must know the importance of co-ordination with the people of this country because they know what goes on there," al-Moallem said.

The US has ruled out any co-ordination with President Bashar Assad's government, which is at war with IS as well as Western-backed rebels. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the coalition's strikes near Kobani came amid heavy fighting between IS and members of the Kurdish force, known as the People's Protection Units, or YPK.

Kurdish fighter Majid Goran said two bombs were dropped over the nearby village of Ali Shar, at 6am (0300 GMT), but that the positions they struck were empty.

Turkey's Dogan news agency reported yesterday that the sound of heavy fighting could be heard from the Turkish border village of Karaca.

The agency said Kurdish forces retook some positions they had lost to the Islamic militants a few days ago. It did not cite a source for the report.

Dozens of people wounded in the fighting arrived in Turkey for treatment yesterday, it said. Another Kurdish fighter, Ismet Sheikh Hasan, said the Turkish military last night retaliated after stray shells landed on Turkish territory, firing in the Ali Shar region.

He said the Turkish action left Kurdish fighters in the middle of the crossfire.

He added that last Friday, the Islamic militants were attacking the Kobani area from the east with tanks and artillery, advancing on Ali Shar and Haja. He said some 20 people were killed, including Kurdish fighters and civilians, while another 50 people were wounded.

The fighting around Kobani sparked one of the largest single outflows of refugees since Syria's conflict began more than three years ago.

The Syrian Kurdish forces have long been one of the most effective fighting units battling IS, but the tide has turned in recent weeks as the Islamic militants have attacked with heavy weapons, likely looted from neighbouring Iraq.

Sunday Independent

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