Iraqi Kurd Peshmerga Enter Kobani to Aid in Fight Against Islamic State Militants
by VOA News October 30, 2014
Syrian activists said the first of 150 Iraqi Kurdish fighters have arrived in Kobani to help Syrian Kurds in their fight against Islamic State militants.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, said Thursday about 10 of the peshmerga forces from Iraq's Kurdistan region crossed into Kobani from Turkey.
Around 150 fighters spent Wednesday traveling across Turkey toward the Syrian border under an agreement with the Turkish government to let them pass through.
The monitoring group said the remaining peshmerga fighters were expected to enter the town - known as Ayn al-Arab in Arabic – "within hours."
"That initial group, I was told, is here to carry out the planning for our strategy going forward," Meryem Kobane, a commander with the YPG, the main Syrian Kurdish armed group defending the town, told Reuters.
Hemin Hawrami, a senior official in the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Iraq, wrote on Twitter that the peshmerga already in Kobani were assessing where the heavy weapons would be deployed.
In a compound protected by Turkish security forces near the border town of Suruc, the fighters were donning combat fatigues and preparing their weapons, a Reuters correspondent said.
The peshmerga fighters are joining the battle in Kobani, where Kurds have been fighting to hold off an advance by the Islamic State group since mid-September.
On Thursday, Masoud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, said the region is prepared to deploy more forces to Kobani if asked.
On Wednesday, a group of about 50 rebels from the Free Syrian Army arrived in Kobani to help the Kurds.
Turkey has said it will not send its own troops because it says the Syrian Kurds in Kobani are linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, which has fought with Turkey for three decades for cultural and political rights.
U.S. military jets have carried out weeks of airstrikes in the Kobani area targeting the Islamic State group.
The Pentagon said Wednesday that U.S. forces had conducted eight airstrikes over the course of two days, hitting Islamic State fighters, vehicles and a control center.
No decisive advantage yet
Neither side has gained a decisive advantage in the fighting, which has forced almost 200,000 Syrian Kurds to flee into Turkey.
The town's fate has become a test of the U.S.-led coalition's ability to combat the Islamic State insurgents.
As the Iraqi Kurdish fighters made their way toward Syria on Wednesday, they received a rapturous welcome from fellow Kurds in south-eastern Turkey.
Large crowds gathered in Sanliurfa, the capital of Turkey's Sanliurfa province, and chanted 'long live peshmerga' as the soldiers walked through the city's streets.
There were similar scenes in the town of Viransehir earlier on Wednesday.
Some material for this report came from Reuters and AP.
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