Islamic State: battle for Kobane continues despite US air strikes

Violent protests break out as Turkey hesitates over fight against jihadists in border town of Kobane

A person holds a flag as Turkish police uses tear gas and water cannon
(Image credit: ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty )

The Islamic State surge into the Turkish-Syrian border town of Kobane appears to have been halted by US air strikes, but many believe it is "only a matter of time" before the town falls to the jihadists.

The US-led coalition launched its heaviest round of air strikes yet, hitting IS positions, destroying several armoured vehicles and forcing militants to take cover.

Clashes between Kurdish forces and IS militants continue, but without the intensity of Monday's fighting.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

"With jets overhead for long periods, IS clearly had to spend time under cover to avoid being hit," reports the BBC's Paul Adams. "At times, Kobane seemed eerily quiet."

However, Adams says the Kurdish YPG is "outnumbered and outgunned" by IS and only a ground operation or significant military assistance from Turkey could carry any guarantee of success.

Ankara's inaction sparked protests by thousands of Kurds in Turkey yesterday, which descended into a riot. Turkish police used water cannon, tear gas and allegedly fired live ammunition.

Local media said 14 people had been killed, including one man who was reportedly shot in the head by police. As clashes broke out in the western cities of Ankara and Istanbul, curfews were imposed in at least five Turkish provinces.

If Kobane does fall, Turkey is "likely to face a massive backlash from its Kurdish population", says The Guardian. It would give IS full control of a long stretch of the Turkish-Syrian border and provide a direct link between its positions in Aleppo and Raqqa.

Turkish parliament has authorised the government to take military action against IS, but so far it has made no move to get involved in the fighting

It apparently wants to see the US take more definitive action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well as IS.

Speaking at a refugee camp for Syrians on Tuesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said air power alone could not defeat IS. The "terror will not be over... unless we co-operate for a ground operation", he said, giving no further details.

Islamic State flag raised in key town on Syria-Turkey border

07 October

The black flag of Islamic State (IS) has been raised on buildings and hills in the eastern suburbs of Kobane, a key town on the Syria-Turkey border.

Areas around Kobane have been under siege from the militants for weeks, with around 160,000 residents seeking refuge in Turkey.

Yesterday the militants entered the eastern districts amid fierce fighting, prompting a further 2,000 civilians to flee across the border. Residential neighbourhoods were pummelled by tank rounds and mortar shells, with Kobane now besieged on three sides.

Asya Abdullah, a co-leader of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, told BBC's Newshour programme yesterday that there were still thousands of civilians in the city. "If [IS] are not stopped now, there will be a big massacre," she said.

Kurdish YPG fighters are "hopelessly out-gunned" by IS, which looted cutting-edge US weaponry from Iraqi army bases in Mosul in June, says The Times.

The US and its allies have targeted the militants with air strikes over two nights, destroying a number of tanks and anti-aircraft guns, but Kurdish leaders say that without ground intervention IS will take full control of Kobane within days.

Turkey is yet to intervene to stop Kobane's fall to the militants. Karwan Zebari, a representative of the Kurdish regional government, told the BBC it would be "catastrophic" if IS seized control of the town. "I think Turkey's interests, national security, is at stake here as well," he warned. "It's important that Turkey steps up and assists these Kurdish fighters in repelling this IS momentum."

US forces have begun to launch strikes with Apache helicopters, which many see as a significant escalation in the war against IS.

At least 14 Turkish tanks have taken up defensive positions on their side of the border. The country's defence minister, Ismet Yilmaz, said Nato had drawn up a strategy to defend Turkey in the event of attack.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.