Planes believed to have been sent by the US-led coalition have struck positions held by Islamic State militants near a Syrian border town that beleaguered Kurdish forces have been struggling to defend.
The airstrikes began late yesterday and came as Kurdish forces pushed Islamic State militants out of the eastern part of Kobani, where the jihadists had raised their black flag over buildings, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
This morning journalists on the Turkish side of the border heard the sound of planes before two large plumes of smoke billowed just west of Kobani.
The US-led coalition has launched several airstrikes over the past two weeks near Kobani in a bid to help Kurdish forces defend the town, but the sorties appear to have done little to slow Islamic State, which captured several nearby villages in a rapid advance that began in mid-September.
The assault has forced some 160,000 Syrians to flee and put a strain on Kurdish forces, who have struggled to hold off the extremists. Hundreds more civilians fled Kobani yesterday as the jihadists advanced, according to the Observatory, which relies on a network of activists inside Syria.
Occasional gunfire could also be heard in Kobani, also known by the Arabic name Ayn Arab. A flag of the Kurdish force known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, was seen flying over a hill in central Kobani.
Yesterday, jihadi fighters raised two of their black flags on the outskirts of Kobani and punctured the Kurdish front lines, advancing into the town itself.
But the Observatory said the Kurds forced the jihadists to withdraw from the eastern part of the town in heavy clashes after midnight. It said five loud explosions were heard in the town as fighter planes soared overhead.
The Observatory said the jihadists were meanwhile able to capture several buildings on the southern edge of Kobani as well as a hospital under construction on the western side.
The Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, also reported coalition airstrikes on the eastern province of Deir el-Zour.
The United States and five Arab allies launched an aerial campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria on September 23 with the aim of rolling back and ultimately crushing the extremist group. The US has been bombing Islamic State targets in neighbouring Iraq since August.
Islamic State has conquered vast areas of Syria and Iraq, declaring a self-styled caliphate governed by a harsh version of Shariah law.
The militants have massacred captured Syrian and Iraqi troops, terrorized minorities in both countries and beheaded two American journalists and two British aid workers.