Ethnic Kurds are helping members of the Islamic State in the battle for the key Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, sharing their knowledge of the local terrain and language with the extremists, according to Iraqi and Kurdish officials.
It is not clear how many Kurds are aiding the estimated 3,000 Islamic State militants in the Kobani area — and fighting against their own Kurdish brethren — but activists say they are playing a major role in the seven-week conflict near the Turkish border.
A senior military commander for the extremists in the town is an Iraqi Kurd known as Abu Khattab al-Kurdi.
Officials with the main Syrian Kurdish force known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, say they became aware of the Kurds among the mostly Sunni Muslim extremists early in the fighting.
As Kurdish fighters were defending the nearby village of Shiran in September, two Kurdish men with different accents and wearing YPG uniforms infiltrated their ranks, Kurdish officials said. After being questioned, they were captured and admitted to fighting for Islamic State.
Iraqi and Kurdish officials say many of the Kurdish fighters with Islamic State are from the north-eastern Iraqi town of Halabja, which was bombed with chemical weapons by Saddam Hussein’s forces in 1988, killing 5,000 people.
Shorsh Hassan, a YPG spokesman in Kobani, said although most of the Kurdish jihadi fighters come from Iraq, some are from Syrian regions such as Kobani, Afrin, and Jazeera.
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