Over 130,000 fleeing Syrian Kurds cross into Turkey

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Syrian Kurdish forces say they have halted advance by Islamic State near border
Refugees wait near the Turkish-Syrian border after fleeing Syria, near Sanliurfa, Turkey, yesterday. More than 130,000 Syrian Kurds fleeing the Islamic State militant group have crossed into Turkey in the past three days, the deputy Turkisk prime minister said. Photograph: Ulas Yunus Tosun/EPA.
Refugees wait near the Turkish-Syrian border after fleeing Syria, near Sanliurfa, Turkey, yesterday. More than 130,000 Syrian Kurds fleeing the Islamic State militant group have crossed into Turkey in the past three days, the deputy Turkisk prime minister said. Photograph: Ulas Yunus Tosun/EPA.
Syrian Kurdish fighters say they have halted an advance by Islamic State fighters to the east of a predominantly Kurdish town near the border with Turkey.

“Fierce clashes are still under way but the ISIS (Islamic State) advance to the east of Kobani has been halted since last night,“ Redur Xelil, spokesman for the main Kurdish armed group, the YPG, said via Skype.

He said the eastern front was the scene of the fiercest fighting in the offensive launched by Islamic State last Tuesday on Kobani, also known in Arabic as Ayn al-Arab. More than 100,000 Syrian Kurds, driven by fear of Islamic State, have fled its advance, many crossing the border into Turkey.

Turkish deputy prime minister Numan Kurtulmus said today that more than 130,000 Syrian Kurds fleeing Islamic State had crossed into Turkey in the past three days and that authorities were preparing for more.

“We are prepared for the worst scenario, which is an influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees,” Mr Kurtulmus told reporters in the capital Ankara.

He said Turkey was ready to react to “the worst case scenario”. “I hope that we are not faced with a more populous refugee wave, but if we are, we have taken our precautions,” said Mr Kurtulmus. “A refugee wave that can be expressed by hundreds of thousands is a possibility.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks violence in the Syrian war, said Islamic State fighters had made no significant advance in the last 24 hours.

The offensive is Islamic State‘s second attempt to take Kobani since June, when it staged a lightning advance across northern Iraq, seizing the city of Mosul and with it Iraqi weaponry including American-made hardware that the Syrian Kurds say is now being used against them.

The previous attack on Kobani, in July, was fought off with the help of Kurds who crossed the border from Turkey. Xelil said hundreds had crossed from Turkey again to help repel the current offensive.

“There have been no reinforcements apart from some Kurdish youths from Turkey,“ he said.

The United States has launched air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq and has said it will not hesitate to strike the group in Syria, but wants allies to join its campaign.

The United Nations said on Sunday the number of Syrian Kurds who had fled into neighbouring Turkey alone might have topped 100,000 and was likely to go much higher.

“There are still clashes to the west and south of Kobani but not at the same intensity as the eastern front,“ Xelil said.

Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Observatory, said Islamic State had made “no progress worth mentioning“ in the past 24 hours, but that clashes were “at their most intense“.

There were conflicting accounts of how far Islamic State fighters were from Kobani. Mr Xelil said they were 20-30 km away, while Mr Abdulrahman said they were around half that distance from the town.

Separately, Islamic State has called on insurgents in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula to press ahead with attacks against Egyptian security forces and to continue beheadings, an appeal likely to deepen concerns over ties between the militant groups.

Egyptian officials, including the foreign minister, have acknowledged coordination between the two groups but have said there are no Islamic State fighters in the country.

Egypt has faced an Islamist insurgency since the army ousted president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood last year. “Rig the roads with explosives for them. Attack their bases. Raid their homes. Cut off their heads. Do not let them feel secure,” Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani said in a statement released online. He praised Egyptian militants for carrying out “blessed operations against the guards of the Jews, the soldiers of Sisi, the new Pharaoh of Egypt”.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who as army chief last year led Morsi’s ouster following mass protests, has expressed concerns about Islamist militants in Egypt and in other parts of the Middle East.

A militant from the Sinai-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which has killed hundreds of Egyptian security forces over the last year, has told Reuters IS has provided instructions on how to operate more effectively.

A bomb attack beside the Egyptian foreign ministry in Cairo claimed by a militant group killed three policemen yesterday, including a key witness in a trial of Morsi.

Agencies

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/middle-east/over-130-000-fleeing-syrian-kurds-cross-into-turkey-1.1937487