BEIRUT: Islamic State group jihadists launched a double attack Saturday on a Kurdish-controlled post on the Syrian-Turkish border for the first time, prompting fierce clashes in the adjacent town of Kobane.
Kurdish officials and a Britain-based monitor said the two IS suicide attacks targeting the border post were launched from Turkish soil, claims that Turkish officials dismissed as “lies”.
The attacks sparked fierce clashes between IS and Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces that have been fighting for more than two months to protect the border town of Kobane.
“Clashes broke out for the first time in the area after two jihadist attacks at dawn on the border post separating Turkey and Kobane,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.
One suicide attacker blew up an explosive-packed car and another detonated a suicide-bomb belt, according to the Britain-based Observatory.
IS Twitter accounts claimed three suicide bombings at the border crossing, the SITE Intelligence Group monitor said, although the Observatory and Turkish officials reported two blasts.
IS began its assault on Kobane, the third largest Kurdish town in Syria, more than two months ago, but Kurdish fighters backed by US-led air strikes and Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces have so far prevented the town’s full takeover.
The Observatory said 39 people — 28 IS jihadists and 11 Kurdish forces — had been killed in clashes and strikes in Kobane over the past 24 hours.
The deaths included the IS suicide bombers, as well as eight IS fighters killed in air strikes on Kobane.
There were conflicting claims about how Saturday’s bombings were launched, with the Observatory saying the attackers “came from Turkish territory”.
Kurdish officials and activists repeated that claim, but it was strenuously denied by the Turkish authorities.
“Claims that the car involved in the IS attack on the Mursitpinar border post came from Turkey are lies,” Turkish media quoted the army as saying.
“No statement to that effect has any authority,” it added.
A Turkish official had earlier said the 5:00 am (0300 GMT) attacks came on the Syrian side of the border.
Turkey has long dismissed allegations that it has failed to secure its long border with Syria, allowing jihadists from IS and other groups free rein to cross.
YPG forces in Kobane are particularly suspicious of Turkey, which quelled a decades-long autonomy battle by its own Kurdish minority.
IS jihadists began advancing on Kobane on September 16, hoping to capture the small but strategic town to cement their control over a large stretch of the frontier.
The Kurds defending Kobane have been bolstered by strikes by the US-led coalition battling IS, but Syria’s foreign minister said on Friday the air strikes had failed to dent the jihadist group’s power.
“Is Daesh (IS) weaker today after two months of coalition strikes? All the indicators show that it is not,” Walid al-Muallem told the pan-Arab Al-Mayadeen channel.
Muallem said the strikes would have no impact while Turkey failed to control its border with Syria.
His comments came ahead of Jordan announcing Saturday that three French Mirage warplanes have been deployed in the kingdom, a neighbour of both Syria and Iraq, to assist the fight against the IS.
France, which is participating in the US-led coalition air strikes in Iraq, said this month it would send six jet fighters to Jordan, also a partner in the fight against the jihadists.
In Iraq, the army and tribal fighters battled the IS group in Ramadi, where the jihadists are threatening one of the last pockets of Anbar province still in government hands.
A tribal leader reported slow progress in the fightback.
Parts of Ramadi and all of Fallujah, to its east, have been outside Baghdad government control since the beginning of the year.
Much more of Anbar province has since been seized by IS, which spearheaded a sweeping June offensive that overran large swathes of Iraq.