Jihadists up offensive after beheading Briton

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MURSITPINAR, Turkey: Kurdish fighters supported by US-led air strikes held back Islamic State (IS) militants attacking a Syrian border town on Saturday (Sunday in Manila), amid an international outcry over the jihadist group’s murder of a British hostage.

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The United Nations Security Council strongly condemned the killing of British humanitarian aid worker Alan Henning by the group as “heinous and cowardly.”

Video purportedly showing an IS fighter beheading Henning has surfaced, earlier today, spurring the Security Council to condemn the act.

“This crime is a tragic reminder of the increasing dangers volunteer humanitarian personnel face every day in Syria,” said Ambassador María Cristina Perceval of Argentina, whose country holds the Security Council Presidency for the month of October.

She added that the killing “once again demonstrates the brutality” of the group, which is responsible for thousands of abuses against the Syrian and Iraqi people.

As fighting raged, dozens of fighters from IS, which has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq, were reported killed in the latest coalition raids.

The dusty town of Kobane on the Turkish border has become a key battleground between IS and its opponents, who include Kurdish fighters as well as the United States and its allies.

The US military said four air strikes hit the area overnight.

Fighting raged on Saturday as IS fighters attempted to seize a strategic hilltop that would give them access to the town, activists said.

Mortar rounds pounded the town as smoke rose above it, an Agence France-Presse team on the Turkish side of the border said.

“The resistance is continuing. The danger has not yet been overcome,” Sebahat Tuncel, a Kurdish member of Turkey’s parliament, told reporters after visiting Kobane.

Five jihadists were killed in American air raids near the town, as well as 30 more around Shadadi in northeastern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

IS militants fired at least 80 mortar rounds Friday into Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab.

Held at the gates
The fighting killed at least 10 Kurdish militia members, said the Britain-based Observatory, which monitors the conflict.

But activist Mustafa Ebdi said the Kurds had been buoyed by their success at holding off the assault so far, noting that the jihadists had hoped to capture the town by Saturday for the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival.

“So far they have failed to enter the town,” Ebdi said.

IS began its advance on Kobane on September 16, seeking to cement its grip over a long stretch of the border.

It has prompted a mass exodus of residents from the town and the surrounding countryside, with some 186,000 fleeing into Turkey.

Meanwhile, Syrian state media reported coalition strikes Saturday in Al-Quriyah in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, with a tank destroyed.

In neighboring Iraq, unidentified gunmen killed 10 soldiers and Shiite allied militiamen in two separate attacks in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad.

American bombers and fighter jets also carried out five air strikes against IS in Iraq, the US military said.

On Friday night, IS released a video showing the execution of Henning, a 47-year-old British volunteer driver who went to Syria with a Muslim charity.

A masked militant directly addressed British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has sent RAF bombers to strike jihadists in Iraq as part of the US-led alliance.

“The blood of David Haines was on your hands, Cameron,” he said, referring to another British aid worker executed by the group.

“Alan Henning will also be slaughtered, but his blood is on the hands of the British parliament,” he declared.

‘Let our son go’
A fellow aid worker from America, Peter Kassig, is also shown alive and threatened by the knife-wielding militant.

As the world condemned Henning’s murder, Kassig’s parents pleaded for his safe release.

“We implore his captors to show mercy and use their power to let our son go,” Ed Kassig said, referring to his son by his adopted Islamic name of Abdul Rahman.

He revealed that his son had disappeared in Syria on October 1 last year, and had embraced Islam after forming a deep attachment to the people of the strife-torn region.

In Britain, Henning’s family paid tribute to the “decent, caring human being” who was a husband and father of two.

British Muslims condemned his killing.

“Alan Henning was our local and national hero,” said Imam Asim Hussain of Manchester Central Mosque.

Cameron said the killing “shows just how barbaric and repulsive these terrorists are,” a condemnation echoed by the European Union.

US President Barack Obama denounced the “brutal murder” and vowed decisive action against IS.

Washington is leading a coalition of nations against the jihadist organization, which has declared an Islamic “caliphate” in parts of Syria and Iraq.

British police are also investigating video footage of an unmasked IS fighter, speaking with a British accent and identified by the SITE monitoring group as Abu Saeed al-Britani, railing against Cameron over British air strikes on Iraq.

Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan angrily rejected comments by US Vice President Joe Biden that Turkey and others in the region had financed and armed jihadist organizations in Syria.

Biden subsequently apologized in a telephone call to Erdogan, the vice president’s office said.

AFP WITH REPORT FROM UN NEWS

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