Middle East

Islamic State: Fresh fighting in key Syrian town of Kobane

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Media captionMore footage purporting to show IS fighters in Kobane has emerged

Fierce fighting has erupted in the north of the Syrian town of Kobane, after two days of relative calm.

The clashes began when Islamic State (IS) militants launched an offensive "on all fronts" against Kurdish fighters on Monday, activists said.

Meanwhile, the US-led anti-IS coalition said it carried out six air strikes around Kobane on Sunday and Monday.

Kobane, on the Turkish border, has been been under assault from IS for weeks, with most civilians forced to leave.

The new fighting came as Turkey said it would allow Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to cross into Syria to fight IS.

The BBC's Kasra Naji on the Turkish border says the decision is a major boost for the defenders' morale, and soon for their fighting capability.

Officials in the Iraqi Kurdish region said they were ready to send forces but had so far received no orders to do so.

Turkey has faced its own Kurdish insurgency for decades and has until now barred access to Syria for Kurdish fighters, but correspondents say it is more sympathetic to Iraqi Kurds.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Witnesses saw several explosions as night fell
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Kurds have been watching the fighting from across the Turkish border

A senior Kurdish official responsible for defence in Kobane, Ismet Hesen, told the BBC that his forces already had the initiative against IS and they needed heavy weapons rather than extra manpower.

Only hours before Mr Cavusoglu's comments, the US military said it had carried out air drops of weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to the Syrian Kurdish fighters around Kobane.

Relative calm

Fierce fighting broke out in the northernmost part of Kobane as night fell on Monday.

It began with huge explosions, which were followed by intense small arms fire and finally with coalition aircraft firing at the area.

This followed almost two days of relative calm with only occasional skirmishes, leading many to believe IS militants had been forced back to a few spots on the fringes of the town.

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Media captionJeremy Woodward: "Killing an Isis member is doing a good deed to the world"

Earlier US Central Command confirmed six air strikes by the US-led coalition near Kobane over Sunday and Monday, as well as six in Iraq near Falluja and Baiji involving French and UK aircraft.

One of the strikes destroyed a bundle of supplies which had gone astray during the air drop to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. All the remaining 26 bundles are reported to have been delivered safely.

On Monday UN human rights chief Ivan Simonovic said that the conduct of IS towards minorities may amount to war crimes.

Its atrocities against the Yazidi people in particular amounted to attempted genocide, he said.

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Media captionKasra Naji reports on the air drops from the Turkey-Syria border

The IS advance in Syria takes place against the backdrop of the civil war. US-led air strikes are being conducted there without the permission of President Bashar al-Assad, who the West wants to relinquish power.

In Iraq, the air campaign is taking place with the co-operation of the government. The advance of IS there earlier this year has taken it to close to the capital, Baghdad.

Who are 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 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, journalists and aid workers
  • The CIA says the group could have as many as 31,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria