Iraqi peshmerga fighters begin to enter Kobani

Ten Iraqi peshmerga fighters have entered Kobani, the first of a group of 150 Kurdish troops on their way into the embattled Syrian border town, activists said.

Iraqi peshmerga fighters begin to enter Kobani

Ten Iraqi peshmerga fighters have entered Kobani, the first of a group of 150 Kurdish troops on their way into the embattled Syrian border town, activists said.

Local activist Musrafa Bani said the rest will follow gradually through the day because the border crossing point has been targeted by Islamic State fighters.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the first group of peshmerga fighters had entered Kobani through the border from Turkey.

The peshmerga forces are aiming to help Kurdish fighters inside Kobani as they try to break a siege by IS militants.

The peshmerga push into Kobani followed heavy overnight clashes as IS tried unsuccessfully to capture the border crossing point.

Separately, a group of 50 Syrian rebels from the Free Syrian Army entered Kobani from Turkey yesterday in the push to help the Kurdish fighters.

The FSA is an umbrella group of mainstream rebels fighting to topple Syrian president Bashar Assad. The political leadership of the Western-backed FSA is based in Turkey, where fighters often seek respite from battle.

The ability of the small force to turn the tide of battle in Kobani will depend on the effectiveness of their weapons and on US-led air strikes against the extremists.

Despite dozens of air strikes, the Kurdish fighters in Syria, known as People’s Protection Units or YPG, have been struggling to defend Kobani against IS since mid-September.

The IS offensive against Kobani and nearby Syrian villages has killed more than 800 people, activists say. The Sunni extremists have captured dozens of Kurdish villages and control parts of the town. More than 200,000 people have fled into Turkey.

The coalition has carried out more than 150 air strikes against the militants in and around Kobani, helping stall their advance. US officials said the strikes have killed hundreds of IS fighters.

Under pressure to take greater action against the IS militants – from the West as well as from Kurds in Turkey and Syria – the Turkish government recently agreed to let peshmerga fighters cross through its territory, but only those from Iraq, with whom it has a good relationship, and not those from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

Ankara views the Syrian Kurds defending Kobani as loyal to what it regards as an extension of the PKK. That group has waged a 30-year insurgency in Turkey and is designated a terrorist group by the US and Nato.

Kurdish fighters in Syria have repeatedly said they do not need more fighters, only weapons. Kurds in Syria distrust Turkey’s intentions, accusing it of blocking assistance to the Kobani defenders for weeks before giving in to pressure and shifting its stance. Many suspect Ankara is trying to dilute YPG influence in Kobani by sending in the peshmerga and the Turkey-backed FSA.

A close adviser to Assad accused Turkey of committing ``aggression'' against his country by allowing rebels to cross into Kobani.

Bouthaina Shaaban said Ankara is trying to expand its influence in Syria by sending in anti-Assad fighters.

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