• Kurds push back jihadists in Kobane

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    MURSITPINAR, Turkey: Kurdish forces in the Syrian town of Kobane repulsed a new attempt by Islamic State (IS) fighters to cut off the border with Turkey on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) as troops battled the jihadists in neighboring Iraq.

    It came as the US military said it had unleashed 25 more air strikes in Syria and Iraq since Friday, hitting IS jihadists and oil infrastructure they control.

    But while Washington said it saw “encouraging” signs, it warned the raids might not prevent the fall of Kobane, and its priority remained the campaign against IS in Iraq.

    Despite a wave of coalition air strikes in recent weeks, Iraqi forces are struggling to regain and hold ground from jihadists.

    As fighting raged, Iraqi members of parliament finally agreed on the choices of defense and interior ministers to spearhead the pushback, in a moved welcomed as a “very positive step forward” by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

    Heavy IS mortar fire hit the Syrian side of the border crossing with Turkey which is the Kurdish fighters’ sole avenue for resupply and the only escape route for remaining civilians, Kurdish official Idris Nassen told Agence France-Presse.

    At least three rounds crashed onto Turkey’s side of the border, one of them near a hill where the Turkish army is deployed, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.

    The jihadists launched a fierce attack from the east towards the border gate before being pushed back, Nassen said.

    IS suffered heavy losses in the fighting and was forced to send in reinforcements, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

    The jihadists lost 21 of their people to air strikes and another 14 in ground fighting on Friday, the Britain-based monitoring group said. The Kurds lost three of their fighters.

    United Nations Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura warned earlier this month that about 12,000 civilians remained in and around Kobane and risked “massacre” if the jihadists cut off the border.

    Overnight coalition air strikes on IS targets elsewhere in Syria killed 10 civilians, the said the Observatory, which has a wide network of sources inside the country.

    AFP

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