THE Syrian border town of Kobani was on the brink of falling to Islamic State (IS) militants as fighting continued to rage in its streets yesterday.
Outgunned Kurdish forces were reported to be struggling to repel the extremists with limited aid from US-led coalition airstrikes, while IS fighters used tanks and heavy weapons looted from captured army bases in Iraq and Syria to pound the town.
The Islamic militants had planted their black flag on the town’s outskirts on Monday after seizing several nearby villages in an offensive launched last month.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the coalition air campaign launched last month would not be enough to halt the IS advance and called for greater cooperation with the Syrian opposition. It is fighting both IS and forces loyal to Syrian president Bashar Assad.
“Kobani is about to fall,” he told Syrian refugees in the Turkish town of Gaziantep, near the border. We asked for three things: one, for a no-fly zone to be created; two, for a secure zone parallel to the region to be declared; and for the moderate opposition in Syria and Iraq to be trained and equipped.”
Mr Erdogan said more than 200,000 people have fled the fighting in and around Kobani in recent weeks. Their flight is among the largest single exoduses of the three-year Syrian conflict.
The UK-based Observatory group, which has a network of activists across Syria, believes 412 people have been killed since the Kobani fighting began.
Turkish tanks and other ground forces have been stationed along the border within a few hundred meters of the fighting in Kobani, but have not intervened.
Syrian Kurds have scoffed at the rhetoric coming out of Ankara. They say the Turks are not helping and are hindering the defence of Kobani by preventing Kurdish militiamen in Turkey from crossing the border into the town to help. “We are besieged by Turkey, it is not something new,” said Ismet Sheikh Hassan, the Kurdish defence chief for the Kobani region.
But further pressure has come from France, which said it was vital to stop IS’s advance on Kobani, and was discussing with Turkey what could be done.
“A lot is at stake in Kobani and everything must be done so that the Daesh (IS) terrorists are stopped and pushed back,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the French parliament, but some analysts doubt the will exists among Western allies to take further action.
“It’s the coalition of the unwilling, each country is doing the bare minimum, particularly in Syria,” said Fadi Hakura of the London-based think-tank, Chatham House.
The latest round of airstrikes began late on Monday, with the sound of fighter planes reported from the Turkish side of the border yesterday morning, before two large plumes of smoke billowed just west of Kobani.
Elsewhere, Kurdish protesters clashed with police in Turkey and forced their way into the European Parliament in Brussels, yesterday, as part of Europe-wide demonstrations against the IS’s advance on Kobani.
The activists were demanding more help for the besieged Kurdish forces struggling to hold onto Kobani..