Peshmarga forces enter Kobani
A convoy of Kurdish Peshmarga forces from rolled late on Friday across the border from Turkey into Syria to help Kurdish fighters defend the besieged town of Kobani that has become the focus of a Western-backed war against Islamic State insurgents.
U.S.-led air strikes hit Islamic State positions around Kobani earlier in the day in an apparent effort to pave the way for the heavily-armed Kurdish contingent to enter the city.
The Kurdish Peshmarga fighters, "those who defy death", had set off cheering and making victory signs in more than a dozen trucks and jeeps, accompanied by armored vehicles and artillery. They headed from a holding point around 8 km (5 miles) from the frontier towards Kobani.
"We have crossed over," one of the Peshmarga fighters in the group said.
The Peshmarga fighters came out cheering "Kobani, Kobani," while honking the horns of their vehicles and waving their rifles in the air. A line of Turkish riot policemen stood in front to prevent photographers from taking pictures of the fighters as they left.
Earlier in the day a Kurdish official blamed Ankara for the delay of the Pesh- marga force deployment for days.
The official of Syria's powerful Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, claimed Turkish leaders had been hoping that militants from the Islamic State group would capture the town before the Iraqi fighters entered.
"There have been so many delays and the Peshmarga are not to blame. The Turks are behind the delays," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. He added that the attacks by IS on Kobani have increased meanwhile.
The force consists of around 150 but brings heavy and much-needed weapons and ammunition. Their arrival would mark the first time Turkey allows ground troops from outside Syria to reinforce Syrian Kurds, who have been defending Kobani for more than 40 days.
As the Peshmarga headed towards the border, a loud blast was heard in the Kobani area, the latest in a rapid series of explosions, in an apparent intensification of the fighting.
Despite having limited strategic significance, Kobani has become a powerful international symbol in the battle against the hard line Sunni Muslim insurgents who have captured large swaths of Iraq and Syria and declared an Islamic "caliphate".
The Kobani battle has raged in full view of the Turkish frontier, testing whether a U. S. -led coalition can halt the Islamic State's advance. The failure of Turkey to help defend the town sparked riots among Kurds in Turkey in which 40 people died.
Earlier on Friday, machine gun fire could be heard from the Turkish side of the border as Islamic State fighters pounded the area near where the Peshmarga were expected to cross.
Crowds of Kurds cheer as a convoy of peshmerga vehicles arrives in Kurdish areas in Turkey.