Middle East

US-led air strikes hit IS on Syria's border with Turkey

Media captionPaul Wood's exclusive report from Kobane: ''The battle is far from over''

US-led coalition air strikes have hit Islamic State (IS) targets near the besieged Syrian town of Kobane on the border with Turkey, the Pentagon says.

An IS building and two "armed vehicles" were destroyed at the Kobane border crossing, US Central Command announced.

Other strikes hit IS targets elsewhere in Syria and in northern Iraq.

Kurdish fighters have been defending Kobane against IS since some 140,000 civilians fled the town and surrounding area for Turkey.

Meanwhile, the Syrian militant group al-Nusra Front has denounced the air strikes as "a war against Islam".

In an online statement, it called on jihadists around the world to target Western and Arab countries involved.

Media captionMark Lowen joined villagers on the Turkey-Syria border watching the fight against IS on Friday

IS shelled Kobane on Saturday and several people were killed, the BBC's Paul Wood reports from the scene.

The coalition air strikes did not appear to prevent skirmishes during the night between IS and the Kurdish defenders, our correspondent says.

Image caption Syrian Kurdish refugees on the Turkish side of the border at Suruc
Image caption Turkish troops stand guard as Syrian Kurdish refugees wait on the border at Suruc
Image caption An RAF Tornado jet crew at Akrotiri air base, Cyprus
Image caption Shia Muslim men receive military training at Karbala, Iraq

In the latest coalition action, Saudi, Jordanian and UAE forces joined the US in launching fighter and drone strikes. According to the Pentagon

  • An IS vehicle was destroyed south of Hassakeh, Syria, along with several buildings used by IS fighters
  • An IS command and control centre near Manbej, Syria, was damaged
  • An IS airfield, garrison and training camp near Raqqa, the militants' capital in Syria, were damaged
  • Four IS armed vehicles and a position were destroyed south-west of Irbil, Iraq

All the aircraft involved returned safely, the US military said.


At the scene: Paul Wood, Kobane

The sound of warplanes circling overhead is nearly constant. And in the early hours of the morning people heard what they said were multiple air strikes against Islamic State positions.

Not before time, say the Kurdish forces defending this place. They are in the fight of their lives, with the jihadis now just a 10-minute drive from the town, and threatening to push further.

At the last Kurdish position outside Kobane last night bullets whined overhead and shells fell either side of the main road to the town.

The Kurds are grateful for the air strikes, but the battle for Kobane is far from over.


Turkish troops have been trying to prevent Turkish and Syrian Kurds crossing the border to help defend Kobane, Paul Wood reports.

Several thousand Kurdish refugees are stuck at the railway line which marks the border with Turkey along with their sheep and cattle.

The problem is that, as refugees, they cannot take their animals, their livelihoods, with them but they believe they will be killed if they turn back.

Coalition growing

On Saturday, a spokesman for the opposition Free Syrian Army said the group supports air strikes but opposes any action that would cause civilian casualties.

Hussam al-Marie told the BBC that Western countries should also carry out strikes against the government in Damascus.

"(The) so-called Islamic State is our enemy as much as (President) Assad's regime is our enemy," he said.

"We want Syria free from dictatorship and from terrorism. We need the support of the free world to continue this battle against the regime and Isis (IS). We are fighting on two fronts."

Media captionJonathan Beale: "They have been authorised to engage targets on the ground"

On Friday the UK became the latest nation to join the US-led coalition against IS, which controls large swathes of Syria and Iraq after rapid advances in the summer.

MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of air strikes in Iraq, but not in Syria.

Two of six RAF Tornados based in Cyprus have carried out their first combat mission over Iraq since the British Parliament authorised air strikes targeting IS.

Loaded with laser-guided bombs and missiles, and followed by an RAF refuelling tanker, they returned without carrying out any strikes.

The UK also has a Rivet Joint spy plane in the region.

UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said "intensified surveillance" would identify "convoys" of IS fighters.

Speaking to BBC's Newsnight, he warned the campaign would be "long and drawn out".

French fighter jets are already taking part in strikes in Iraq with Belgium and the Netherlands each pledging six F-16s planes and Denmark deploying seven.

About 40 countries, including several from the Middle East, have joined the US-led coalition against IS.

European countries have so far only agreed to strike targets in Iraq where the government has asked for help.


Who are Islamic State (IS)?

Media captionIn 60 seconds: What does Islamic State want?
  • Formed out of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in 2013, IS first captured Raqqa in eastern Syria
  • It captured broad swathes of Iraq in June, including Mosul, and declared a "caliphate" in areas it controls in Syria and Iraq
  • Pursuing an extreme form of Sunni Islam, IS has persecuted non-Muslims such as Yazidis and Christians, as well as Shia Muslims, whom it regards as heretics
  • Known for its brutal tactics, including beheadings of soldiers, Western journalists and aid workers
  • The CIA says the group could have as many as 31,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria