Turkey’s president says the Syrian border town of Kobani is on the verge of falling to Islamic State militants.
Kurdish fighters have been defending the town for three weeks from the approaching militant offensive.
But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Tuesday that the ultra-radical Sunni militant group will take control of the area along the Syria-Turkey border unless ground troops counter the offensive.
A monitoring group says at least 400 people have been killed in the three-week battle for the largely Kurdish town, including 20 civilians.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports the IS group has the highest death toll, with 219 members killed, while 173 Kurdish forces have died since the clashes began in September.
The fighting has sent tens of thousands of people fleeing for safety into neighboring Turkey.
Suspected U.S.-led airstrikes early Tuesday struck near Kobani, according to an eyewitness, who said that they should have come “five or ten days” earlier “so these vultures wouldn’t massacre the whole town and innocent people wouldn’t die.”
‘Resist until the end’
The Syrian Observatory said IS militants seized several buildings in the southwestern part of the town.
Taking Kobani would give Islamic State fighters control of a stretch of Syria along the Turkish border.
A Kurdish defense chief vowed Monday to «resist until the end,» saying if the militants take the town then it will become a «graveyard» for both sides.
A spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Ban is calling for the protection of civilians in the area.
U.S. officials said Monday that Apache helicopters, gunships that allow more precise targeting and greater support to ground troops, have joined the fight in Iraq against the IS militants.
The low-flying helicopters are also more vulnerable than higher flying, faster moving jets.
Some material for this report came from Reuters.