A small group of Syrian rebels have entered the embattled border town of Kobani to help Kurdish fighters battling Islamic State (IS) extremists, according to reports.
The group of about 50 armed fighters is from the Free Syrian Army, an umbrella group of mainstream rebels fighting to topple Syrian president Bashar Assad.
Idriss Nassan, a Kurdish official from Kobani, said the group crossed to Kobani through the Mursitpinar border crossing with Turkey.
Their arrival early today came several hours after a group of Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga troops arrived in Turkey, also on their way to Syria to help their Syrian Kurdish brethren fight IS militants.
The peshmerga fighters from Iraq are expected to cross into Syria later today.
The political leadershp of the Western-backed FSA is based in Turkey, where fighters often seek respite from the fighting.
Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the BBC that sending the peshmerga and the FSA was “the only way to help Kobani, since other countries don’t want to use ground troops”.
A Kurdish journalist in Kobani and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that a group of about 50 FSA fighters had entered Kobani.
After a rousing send-off from thousands of cheering, flag-waving supporters in the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Irbil, the peshmerga forces landed early today at Sanliurfa airport in south-eastern Turkey.
They left the airport in buses escorted by Turkish security forces and are also expected to travel to Kobani through the Mursitpinar crossing.
IS launched its offensive on Kobani and nearby Syrian villages in mid-September, killing more than 800 people, according to activists. The Sunni extremists captured dozens of Kurdish villages around Kobani and control parts of the town. More than 200,000 people have fled across the border into Turkey.
The US is leading a coalition that has carried out dozens of air strikes targeting the militants in and around Kobani.
The deployment of the 150 peshmerga fighters, who were authorised by the Iraqi Kurdish government to go to Kobani, underscores the sensitive political tensions in the region.
Turkey’s government views the Syrian Kurds defending Kobani as loyal to what Ankara regards as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. That group has waged a 30-year insurgency in Turkey and is designated a terrorist group by the US and Nato.
Under pressure to take greater action against the IS militants – from the West as well as from Kurds inside Turkey and Syria – the Turkish government agreed to let the fighters cross through its territory. But it only is allowing peshmerga forces from Iraq, with whom it has a good relationship, and not those from the PKK.
The force will provide much-needed support for the Syrian Kurds, although it is not clear whether Turkey will allow the peshmerga fighters to carry enough weaponry to make an impact.