700 mainly elderly civilians are still caught inside the city centre
Suruc (Turkey) : Jihadists captured the headquarters of Kurdish fighters defending the battleground Syrian town of Kobane today as a UN envoy warned of a looming “massacre” by the Islamic State group.
Outgunned Kurdish militia were struggling to prevent the jihadists closing off the last escape route for the thousands of civilians still in or near the town, prompting an appeal for urgent military assistance.
US-led warplanes have intensified air strikes against IS fighters who have been attacking Kobane for three weeks but the Pentagon has warned that, without a force on the ground to work with, there are limits to what can be done.
Neighbouring Turkey has so far held back from any action against the jihadists on its doorstep, despite four straight nights of protests among its own large Kurdish minority that have left 31 people dead. The jihadists’ advance has brought the front line to just 1.3 kilometres from the border. “IS now controls 40 per cent of the town,” said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“The capture of the headquarters will allow the jihadists to advance on the border post with Turkey to the north of the town,” its director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
“If they achieve that, they will have the Kurdish forces inside Kobane completely surrounded.”
UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura appealed to Turkey to take any action it could to protect the 12,000 or so civilians still in or near the town, warning they “will be most likely massacred” if captured by IS fighters.
Kobane was “literally surrounded” except for one narrow entry and exit point to the Turkish border, de Mistura said. Up to 700 mainly elderly civilians were still inside the city centre, and another 10,000-13,000 gathered nearby.
“If this falls, the 700 — plus perhaps, if they move a little bit further, the 12,000 people … will be most likely massacred,” he warned. The envoy called on Turkey, “if they can, to support the deterrent actions of the coalition through whatever means from their own territory.”