- Kobani deputy foreign minister hopeful that arrival of 150 fighters with weapons, ammunition will tip balance of battle
- Nine IS fighting positions and a building ‘suppressed or destroyed’ by US aristrikes in Kobani, airstrikes in Iraq destroy IS vehicle
Syrian Kurds welcomed the arrival in Kobani of heavily-armed Iraqi Kurdish fighters, hoping they might tip the balance in the battle to defend the town against Islamic State (IS) militants, as US-led air strikes continued to bomb the ultra-hardline group in Iraq and Syria.
Air strikes have helped to foil several attempts by the Al Qaeda offshoot, notorious for its beheading of hostages, to take over Kobani. But they have done little to stop its advances, in particular in Sunni areas of western Iraq, where it has executed hundreds of tribesmen.
IS fighters have mocked US airstrikes as a campaign against Islam that they say has angered Muslims and helped the group win followers across the globe.
The arrival of 150 Iraqi fighters, who have yet to participate in the battle, marks the first time Turkey has allowed ground troops from outside Syria to reinforce Syrian Kurds, who have been defending Kobani for more than 40 days.
The fighters – known as peshmerga (those who defy death) – were preparing themselves for the battle and are expected to take part in action in Kobani later on Saturday, Kurdish officials said.
“What was lacking is the weapons and ammunition, so the arrival of more of it plus the fighters will help tip the balance of the battle,” Idris Nassan, Deputy Foreign Minister of Kobani District reportedly said.
“The whole issue is the weapons and ammunition. Of course more fighters will help.”
The US military said it had carried out 10 airstrikes against IS militants, five near Kobani and five in Iraq, since Friday.
The Kobani strikes “suppressed or destroyed” nine IS fighting positions and a building. In Iraq, air strikes destroyed an IS vehicle southwest of Mosul Dam and hit four vehicles and four buildings used by militants near Al Qaim, the US military said in a statement.
DAUNTLESS AND EXPANDING:
Undeterred by the airstrikes, the IS fighters continued a mass killing campaign in Iraq to wipe out resistance. They executed 85 more members of Albu Nimr tribe, according to a tribal leader and security official.
Tribal chief Sheikh Naeemal Ga’oud reportedly said that IS had killed 50 members of Albu Nimr who were fleeing the group in Anbar province on Friday. In a separate incident, a security official said 35 bodies were found in a mass grave.
The group has executed a total of more than 300 tribe members in the past few days, Ga’oud and the official said.
Albu Nimr had held out for weeks under siege by IS, but finally ran low on ammunition, fuel and food.
The militants have lost hundreds if not thousands of fighters since IS was declared in June – in battles against other Sunni rebels, Islamist groups, forces loyal to Syrian President Basharal Assad and in US-led airstrikes.
However, fighters inside the group say that it was receiving hundreds of volunteers every month, which was helping it carry our more attacks. It was also receiving pledges of allegiances from Islamist groups in the world including Pakistan, Africa and some Arab states.
In another sign of the group’s relentless efforts to expand despite the US-led attacks, dozens of residents of Libyan town, Derna, have pledged allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakral Baghdadi –self-proclaimed Caliph of all Muslims, according to a video posted online and residents.
Fifteen IS members, led by an Egyptian and a Saudi Arabian national, traveled to Derna from Syria in September to try to rally support and establish an IS branch in Libya, Egyptian security officials have said.
FSA IN KOBANI
In the meanhwile, intense gunfire could reportedly be heard in the town of Kobani on Saturday and Iraqi peshmerga could be seen on the town’s western side, talking with YPG fighters – the main Syrian Kurdish armed group defending the town – and standing next to a cannon.
Also on the west of the city, fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) who went to defend the town were reportedly seen driving flatbed trucks mounted with heavy machine guns and flying the three-star green, white and black Syrian flag.
The move by FSA – a term used to refer to dozens of armed groups fighting against Assad and IS – drew criticism from opposition activists, who urged the fighters to deploy on fronts where Western-backed rebels were losing to Assad’s forces and to Islamists.
Syria’s Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front seized on Saturday the Jabal al-Zawiya region, the last remaining stronghold of Western-backed rebels in Syria’s northwest province of Idlib, after days of fighting.
Backed by other hardline Islamist groups, the front is waging a major military campaign against the Syria Revolutionaries’ Front led by Jamal Maarouf, a key figure in the armed opposition to Assad, after accusing him of corruption and working for the West against them.