Turkey opened a stretch of the frontier on Friday after Kurdish civilians fled their homes, fearing an imminent attack on the border town of Ayn al-Arab
About 60,000 Syrian Kurds have crossed into Turkey in the past 24 hours, a deputy prime minister said on Saturday, fleeing an advance by Islamic State militants who have seized dozens of villages close to the border and are advancing on a Syrian town.
Turkey opened a stretch of the frontier on Friday after Kurdish civilians fled their homes, fearing an imminent attack on the border town of Ayn al-Arab, which is also known as Kobani. Islamic State is now within 15 km (9 miles) of the town, a Kurdish commander on the ground said.
Islamic State’s advances in northern Syria have prompted calls for help by the region’s Kurds who fear a massacre in Kobani. The town sits in a strategic position on the border and has prevented the radical Sunni Muslim militants from consolidating their gains across northern Syria.
Lokman Isa, a 34-year-old farmer, said he had fled with his family and about 30 other families after heavily-armed Islamic State militants entered his village of Celebi. He said the Kurdish forces battling them had only light weapons.
“They (Islamic State) have destroyed every place they have gone to. We saw what they did in Iraq in Sinjar and we fled in fear,” he told Reuters in the Turkish town of Suruc, where Turkish authorities were setting up a camp.
Sitting in a field after just crossing the border, Abdullah Shiran, a 24-year-old engineer, recounted scenes of horror in his village of Shiran, about 10 km (six miles) from Kobani.
“IS came and attacked and we left with the women but the rest of the men stayed behind … They killed many people in the villages, cutting their throats. We were terrified that they would cut our throats too,” he said.
Turkish soldiers looked on as the refugees, many of them women carrying bundles on their heads, streamed across. Hundreds of people huddled in the dusty fields with their few belongings.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus put the number of Syrian Kurds to have crossed the 30-km section of the border that has been open since Friday at 60,000. Officials said many thousands were still waiting to cross on Saturday evening.
“The United States, Turkey, Russia, friendly countries must help us. They must bomb Islamic State. All they can do is cut off heads, they have nothing to do with Islam,” said Mustafa Saleh, a 30 year-old water industry worker.
“I would have fought to my last drop of blood against Islamic State but I had to bring the women and children.”
“STATE OF TERROR”
Kurdish forces have evacuated at least 100 villages on the Syrian side since the militants’ onslaught started on Tuesday.
“Islamic State sees Kobani like a lump in the body, they think it is in their way,” said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors Syria’s civil war.
The Islamic State has executed at least 11 Kurdish civilians, including boys, in the villages it has seized near Kobani, the Observatory said.
More than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey late on Friday to help push back Islamic State, said Abdulrahman, adding it was not clear which group the fighters belonged to.