Kurdish fighters in northern Syria are getting reinforcements in their month-long battle with Islamic State militants in the border city of Kobani.
A group of about 50 rebels from the Free Syrian Army arrived Wednesday in Kobani after crossing into Syria from Turkey. They join the fight there against the Islamic State group after spending the past 3 ½ years battling Syrian forces in a bid to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
Also Wednesday, a group of Iraqi Kurdish fighters flew into an airport in southeastern Turkey and proceeded toward the Syrian border under escort by Turkish security forces. About 90 to 100 of these peshmerga were expected to join the fight soon in Kobani, which has been under siege since mid-September.
A convoy carrying another group with heavy weapons also crossed into Turkey by land Wednesday on its way to Kobani.
«It’s mainly artillery, or anti-armor, anti-tank weapons,» said Saleh Moslem, co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party, according to the Reuters news agency. He said the weapons are needed to counter attacks by the well-equipped Islamic State militants.
Turkey’s government agreed last week to allow 150 fighters from Iraq’s Kurdistan region to pass through its territory.
Turkey has balked at sending its own troops because it says the Syrian Kurds fighting in Kobani are linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has waged a three-decade fight with Turkey for Kurdish cultural and political rights.
US continues airstrikes
The United States, which is leading coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State, had urged Turkey to grant access for reinforcements.
«Obviously, we’ve advocated and been discussing the importance of allowing the peshmerga across the border,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a daily news briefing Tuesday in Washington.
U.S. military aircraft carried out 14 airstrikes in the Kobani area on Tuesday and Wednesday, Reuters reported. Cameras pointed at the town from Turkey captured multiple massive explosions Wednesday, along with the sound of jets flying overhead and separate gunfire.
Overnight, Kobani was hit by at least a dozen shells fired by IS fighters, Reuters reported, attributing the count to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Meanwhile, in lraq, security forces’ new offensive to reclaim the Beiji oil refinery has brought them to within 2 kilometers or 1.2 miles, Reuters said. The Islamic State seized control of the country’s largest refinery in June