Kurds fight IS with female suicide bomber
Smoke rising above the Kurdish town of Kobane in northern Syria, where a female suicide bomber is believed to have blown herself up among IS militants (Aris Messinis / AFP).
As Islamic State (ISIS) forces continue to advance on the Kurdish city of Kobane in northern Syria (western Kurdistan), Kurdish forces are engaged a last-ditch, desperate fight to fend off the jihadists.
Kurdish forces from the People's Protection Units (YPG), along with a small contingent of the rebel Free Syrian Army, have fought tooth-and-nail for weeks over every kilometer against ISIS, but have slowly been forced back into the city.
Both sides have taken heavy casualties in the bloody fighting, but as night descended Sunday ISIS forces finally managed to breach the city's defenses and penetrate into the southernmost suburbs of Kobane.
The Kurds are not giving up without a fight. YPG forces have some three years of experience battling various Islamist forces, and have shown a more grit, determination and ingenuity than perhaps any other foe faced by ISIS.
But on Sunday, as the battle around Kobane still raged, the extent of the desperation felt by the lightly-armed defenders of the city was gruesomely illustrated when a female fighter carried out what is believed to be the first suicide bombing by Kurdish forces - utilizing the Islamists' own brutal tactics against them.
The fighter blew herself up with a grenade among a gathering of ISIS fighters on the eastern outskirts of the besieged city, killing an unspecified number of terrorists, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. She was named on social media as Arin Mirkan.
"The operation caused deaths, but there is no confirmed number," observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The use of a suicide bombing by the fiercely secular YPG is an indication of the existential threat felt by Kurds in the face of Islamist forces, who have committed numerous massacres and ethnic cleansing against them in recent years - most notably of the Kurdish Yazidi population in Iraq, but also during the fighting for Kobane, which saw scores of Kurdish POWs decapitated by ISIS.
Unlike their counterparts in northern Iraq (the Kurdish Regional Government's Peshmerga militia), the Syrian-Kurdish YPG have not received western military aid and are being forced to face the advanced - in many cases US-made - military equipment seized by ISIS in Iraq over the summer using just light weapons. Even the belated decision by the US to order airstrikes on ISISpositions around Kobane appears woefully, even purposefully, ineffective, with Kurdish military sources claiming the US Air Force has mainly been bombing "empty buildings".
The YPG is linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been fighting for greater Kurdish rights in neighboring Turkey and is a proscribed terrorist group both there and in the US. Many suspect the US has held back from aiding the Kurds in Syria for fear of upsetting Turkey's Islamist government, despite fears of an impending massacre.
Hundreds of thousands of Kurdish residents have fled Kobane to the Turkish border since the fighting began. Turkish forces have been accused of complicity in the ISIS advance by preventing hundreds of Turkish-Kurdish volunteers from crossing the border to join the fight.