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Fiercest fighting in days hits Syrian border town

Smoke rises over Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike, as seen from the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province.

The fiercest fighting in days shook the Syrian border town of Kobani overnight as Islamic State fighters attacked Kurdish defenders with mortars and car bombs, sources in the town and a monitoring group said today.

Islamic State, which controls much of Syria and Iraq, fired 44 mortars at Kurdish parts of the town on 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 on Sunday.

The month-long battle for Kobani has ebbed and flowed. A week ago, Kurds said the town would soon fall. The United States and its coalition partners then stepped up air strikes on Islamic State, which wants to take Kobani in order to strengthen its position in northern Syria.

The coalition has been bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq since August and extended the campaign to Syria in September after Islamic State, a group that espouses a rigid interpretation of Islam and initially fought Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, made huge territorial gains.

Raids on Islamic State around Kobani have been stepped up, with the fate of the town seen as an important test for US President Barack Obama's campaign against the Islamists.

NATO member Turkey, whose forces are ranged along the border overlooking Kobani, is reluctant to intervene. It insists the allies should also confront Assad to end Syria's civil war, which has killed close to 200,000 people since March 2011.

"We had the most intense clashes in days, perhaps a week, last night. (Islamic State) attacked from three different sides including the municipality building and the market place," said Abdulrahman Gok, a journalist in Kobani.

"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 shells," he said.

The Observatory reported two Islamic State car bombs hit Kurdish positions on Saturday evening, leading to casualties. A cloud of black smoke towered over Kobani today.

A fighter from one of the female units of the main Syrian Kurdish militia in Kobani, YPG, said Kurdish fighters 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 Islamic State fighters had been killed in the past two days, according to sources at the hospital in the nearby town of Tel Abyab, where Islamic State bodies are taken. Reuters cannot independently confirm the reports due to security restrictions.

The Observatory said some Syrian Arab fighters from the Revolutionaries of Raqqa Brigade, who are fighting alongside Kurdish fighters, had executed two Islamic State captives.

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Tags:  Syria  IS  air strikes  US  Kobani  World  





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