Middle East

Islamic State crisis: New strikes in Syria near Kobane

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Media captionPaul Adams at Syrian border: "They are happy someone is hitting back but fear it's not enough to stop the IS advance"

US-led forces have carried out air strikes on Islamic State (IS) militants battling Kurdish fighters around the northern Syrian border town of Kobane.

A BBC correspondent saw explosions outside the town in the morning.

At least 10 people were killed overnight, Syrian activists said, as the jihadists moved to within 2 to 3km (1.2-1.9 miles) of Kobane.

Tens of thousands of people have fled across the border into Turkey since IS launched an offensive two weeks ago.

The jihadists' advance has put pressure on the Turkish government to take a more significant role in the US-led coalition formed to combat IS.

Ministers submitted a proposal to parliament late on Tuesday to allow Turkish troops to conduct operations in Syria and Iraq, and to allow foreign forces to use Turkish military bases.

Parliament is expected to debate the proposal on Thursday, and the ruling AK Party's majority means it is likely to be approved.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday's double bomb attack in Homs

In a separate development in Syria on Wednesday, at least 22 people, including 10 children, were killed and dozens wounded in a double bomb attack in the central city of Homs, officials and activists said.

First, a car bomb exploded in front of a school in the Akrama al-Jadida district while the children were heading home. Minutes later, a suicide bomber drove by the scene and detonated explosives inside his car, a local official told the Associated Press.

No group said it had carried out the attack but the area is dominated by President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite sect.

Desperate civilians

The BBC's Paul Adams, who is on the Turkish side of the border near Kobane, reported sporadic fighting between Kurdish and IS fighters on Wednesday. Mortars were fired at houses on the town's outskirts.

There were reports of several air strikes overnight and our correspondent says he saw at least two more on positions in the distance, each one sending a huge column of black smoke high into the sky.

Image copyright PAUL ADAMS
Image caption There were several air strikes south and south-east of Kobane on Wednesday morning
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Turkish tanks have meanwhile taken up positions along the Syrian border

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based activist group that monitors casualties from the three-year-old conflict in Syria, reported that there had been at least five air strikes south and south-east of Kobane.

It said nine Kurdish militiamen from the Popular Protection Units (YPG) and an IS militant had been killed in clashes overnight.

The Syrian Observatory also reported that IS had beheaded five Kurdish fighters, including three women, as well as four Arab rebels and a Kurdish civilian.

At the border fence itself, desperate civilians are huddled with their vehicles and livestock, our correspondent says.

They are terrified at the advance of the militants but also angry at what they say is the refusal of the Turkish authorities to let them cross, he adds.

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Media captionClive Myrie reports from northern Iraq where the Peshmerga say they are fighting with weapons that are not up to the job

Capturing Kobane, also known as Ayn al-Arab, would give IS unbroken control of a long stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border.

Overnight, British warplanes fired four missiles at IS vehicles in Iraq. The Ministry of Defence said the two Tornados had targeted an armed pick-up truck and a transport vehicle west of the capital, Baghdad.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott meanwhile announced that Royal Australian Air Force jets would begin supporting the US-led coalition operations against IS in Iraq, but would not yet carry out air strikes.


What is Islamic State (IS)?

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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 parts 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