IS casualties high in battle for Kobani

Published October 20th, 2014 - 06:33 GMT

The fiercest fighting in days shook the Syrian border town of Ain al-Arab overnight as ISIS fighters attacked Kurdish defenders with mortar bombs and car bombs, sources in the town and an anti-regime monitoring group said Sunday.

ISIS fired 44 mortars at Kurdish parts of the town Saturday and some of the shells fell inside nearby Turkey, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It said four more mortars were fired Sunday.

“We had the most intense clashes in days, perhaps a week, last night. ISIS attacked from three different sides including the municipality building and the market place,” said Abdulrahman Gok, a journalist in Ain al-Arab.

“Clashes did not stop until the morning. We have had an early morning walk inside the city and have seen lots of damaged cars on the streets and unexploded mortar bombs,” he said.

The Observatory also reported that two ISIS car bombs hit Kurdish positions Saturday evening, leading to casualties.

A fighter from one of the female units of the main Syrian Kurdish militia, the YPG, said her forces were able to detonate the car bombs before they reached their targets.

“Last night there were clashes all across Kobani ... this morning the clashes are still ongoing,” she said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Observatory said 70 ISIS fighters had been killed in the past two days, according to sources at the hospital in the nearby town of Tal Abyad, where ISIS bodies are taken.

The Observatory said some non-Kurdish fighters from the Raqqa Rebels Brigade, who are fighting alongside the YPG, had executed two ISIS captives.

“One was a child of around 15 years old. They shot them in the head,” he said.

Anti-regime media outlets Sunday said the commander of the Raqqa Rebels Brigade survived an assassination attempt in Urfa, Turkey.

ISIS fighters also weighed in on their campaign, arguing it wasn’t a fight against the Kurds.

“We came to establish the laws of God – not to fight the Kurds,” a fighter in army fatigues said on a video uploaded to YouTube. The video was uploaded by a user who appears to be embedded with the militants.

But another fighter who appeared to be from a European country, judging from his accent in Arabic, described their aim “to liberate the land from the filth of the apostates, the PKK and others,” referring to Turkish-Kurdish secular fighters – who are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim – as apostates.

The fighter said the U.S.-led coalition assembled to fight the militant group was a sure sign of the justness of their cause.

“As for the planes that shell us 24 hours, day and night, by God we say: they increase our faith, assuredness and steadfastness. We know we are on the right path because all the [non-believers] of the world have gathered against us.”

Ankara has refused to rearm beleaguered Kurdish fighters, who complain they are at huge disadvantage in the face of ISIS’ weaponry, much of it seized from the Iraqi military when the militants took the city of Mosul in June.

Turkey views the YPG with suspicion for its long-standing links with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a 30-year armed campaign for self-rule in Turkey.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted in the Turkish media Sunday as saying Ankara would never arm the YPG through its political wing, the PYD.

“There has been talk of arming the PYD to establish a front here against [ISIS]. For us, the PYD is the same as the PKK, it’s a terrorist organization,” he said.

In a call with Erdogan Saturday night, U.S. President Barack Obama expressed appreciation for Turkey hosting over a million refugees, including thousands of people from Ain al-Arab.

“The two leaders pledged to continue to work closely together to strengthen cooperation against [ISIS],” the White House said.

The clashes between the Kurds and ISIS continued to the east, near Tal Abyad, the Observatory said, with both sides suffering “confirmed” casualties.

Also, a U.S.-led coalition airstrike on a gas distribution facility late Friday in rural Deir al-Zor province set off a series of secondary explosions and killed at least eight people, activists said, upping a previous figure.

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