ISIS strikes back on strategic town of Kobani under guise of moderate Syrian rebels
The Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS/ISIL) attack began in the early hours of Thursday morning, when the militants used a suicide bomber to detonate a car bomb at the border crossing with Turkey and later entered the city in five vehicles fighting with Kurdish forces in the streets.
"They opened fire randomly on everyone they found," Redur Xelil, the spokesman of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), told Reuters.
He added that Islamic State militants were deceptively flying the flag of the Western-backed Syrian rebel movement, the Free Syrian Army, which is also fighting Islamic State.
“No one can go out of their home, the streets are not safe … Isis fighters are getting inside houses and killing everyone [they find],” said a witness of the attack told The Guardian.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, at least 35 people were killed as a result of Islamic State attacks and bomb explosions, as reported by Reuters. At the same time, Welat Omer, a doctor at Kobani hospital, said that about 70 people were wounded during this assault adding that women and children constitute the majority of those affected by the attacks.
Xelil also told The Guardian that the Islamic State attackers numbered between 30 and 40 holed up in the buildings in Kobani after shooting dozens of people in the streets. The YPG together with the Kurdish Asayish security forces are scouring the area, while clashes in the city still continue.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Islamic State militants also attacked the village of Brakh Bootan south of Kobani following the attack on the city itself.
At least 20 Kurdish residents of Brakh Bootan, including women and children, were killed, and at least 15 others were wounded by gunshots and shelling. Five Islamic fighters are reported to have also been killed.
Syrian state television said Islamic State attackers who entered Kobani came from Turkey, although the channel did not revealed the source of this information.
Figen Yuksekdag, the co-leader of the Turkish pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), accused Turkey of supporting the militants by saying that the “massacre” in Kobani was the result of Turkish long-term support for the Islamic State. He also said that the attackers “probably came from Turkey,” as quoted by Reuters.
Turkish foreign ministry strongly denied all such accusations, calling them “lies.” The ministry’s spokesman Tanju Bilgic said it to the reporters at a regular briefing adding that 63 of the wounded had been brought to Turkey after the attack on Kobani with two of them, one child, dying later.
Simultaneously to the Kobani attacks, Islamic State engaged in battle against Syrian army forces in the northeastern city of Hasaka seizing two south-western districts of the city, including al-Nashwa, and pushing the government forces towards the city center, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports.
Heavy clashes in the city resulted in deaths of 30 Syrian army soldiers and 20 militants. On this offensive, Islamic State was supported by the previously pro-government militia, known as National Defense Forces, which helped them to secure a bridgehead for the assault, said Redur Xelil, as quoted by the Guardian.
Xelil said Kurds had not yet engaged in the battle for Hasaka divided between pro-Assad forces and Kurdish militia.
At the same time, Syrian military sources denied the loss of positions in Hasaka by claiming the army had shattered the assault, as reported by Press TV.
The Islamic State attacks on Kobani and Hasaka are thought to be retaliation strikes aimed at retaking the initiative after recent Islamic State losses to Kurds.
YPG together with a rebel “Euphrates Volcano” alliance have lately advanced deep into the Islamic State territory seizing the towns of Tal Abyad and Ain Issa that have brought them within 30 miles of the Islamic State self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa.
Meanwhile, several rebel groups including secular “Southern Front” and the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front launched a separate major offensive on the government controlled areas of the Deraa city in Syria’s south.
Deraa's provincial governor Khaled al-Hanous told state TV that the rebels had not made "one meter of progress" so far.