MURSITPINAR, Turkey: Intensified air strikes helped Kurdish militia push back Islamic State jihadists fighting for Kobane as pressure mounted on Wednesday for more international action to save the key Syrian border town.
Across the frontier in Turkey, the government’s lack of action against the jihadists was drawing a furious response, with at least 14 people killed in pro-Kurdish demonstrations in the southeast.
A new strike by the US-led coalition hit near Kobane early on Wednesday after a flurry of raids the day before, an Agence France-Presse reporter on the Turkish border said.
The strike sent a cloud of thick black smoke billowing from the eastern side of the town, where Kurdish militia were reported to have forced IS fighters out of several neighborhoods in heavy overnight fighting.
The jihadists pierced Kobane’s defenses this week, sparking fierce street battles that continued on Wednesday with the sounds of heavy gunfire and mortar shells falling on the town.
A Kobane official, Idris Nahsen, said fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) had managed to push IS militants out of key areas after “helpful” air strikes by the US-led coalition.
The Observatory said in its latest toll update that at least 32 IS fighters were killed in and around Kobane on Tuesday, including at least 20 in coalition air strikes.
At least eight YPG militiamen were killed during clashes in the town on Tuesday, said the Britain-based group, which relies on a network of sources on the ground for its reports.
IS fighters entered Kobane on Monday night, after nearly three weeks of fighting around the town on the Syria-Turkey border.
On Tuesday, fighting had raged in the east, west and south of Kobane, which is Syria’s third biggest Kurdish town, and a US-led coalition fighting IS carried out multiple air strikes around it.
Mustafa Ebdi, a Kurdish journalist and activist from Kobane, wrote on his Facebook page that “the streets of the Maqtala neighborhood in southeastern Kobane are full of the bodies of Daesh fighters,” using the Arabic acronym for IS.
But he added that hundreds of civilians remained in the town and “the humanitarian situation is difficult and people need food and water.”
IS began its advance on Kobane on September 16, quickly sweeping through the surrounding countryside and prompting an estimated 186,000 people to flee the region across the border into Turkey.
According to the Observatory, at least 412 people have been killed in the fighting, though the group said it believes the true toll could be twice as high.
Before the latest air stirkes, pro-Kurdish demonstrators angered by Ankara’s failure to act so far clashed with police across Turkey, leaving at least 14 people dead and many wounded.
The Kurdish diaspora also held protests in Europe, with dozens of demonstrators bursting into the European Parliament in Brussels.
Eight of the deaths came in Turkey’s main Kurdish city of Diyarbakir where the most intense rioting took place overnight Tuesday to Wednesday, a local security official told Agence France-Presse.