IS attacks Syria’s Kobane in new offensive after setbacks
The Islamic State group launched a two-pronged offensive in northern Syria on Thursday after several setbacks, re-entering the symbolic battleground town of Kobane and seizing parts of the city of Hasakeh.
In southern Syria, an alliance of rebel groups, including al-Qaida affiliate al-Nusra Front, also attacked government-held areas of the city of Daraa.
Analysts said the surprise IS assaults were aimed at diverting Kurdish forces after they scored a series of victories and advanced on the jihadists’ Syrian stronghold of Raqa.
Kobane, on the border with Turkey, became an important symbol in the battle against IS after the group launched a bid to take it last year.
Kurdish forces backed by U.S.led air strikes waged a four-month battle to repel the group, finally securing the town in January.
But on Thursday, the jihadists returned, detonating a suicide car bomb near the border crossing adjacent to Kobane as they launched an assault.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said at least 12 civilians and Kurdish fighters were killed in the car bomb and subse- quent fighting in the centre of the town, along with eight IS militants.
A few hours later, two more car bombs detonated near the border, but there were no immediate details on casualties.
IS forces also entered a Kurdish village some 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Kobane on Thursday morning, executing at least 23 residents, among them women and children, the Observatory said.
The jihadists withdrew from Barkh Butan after U.S.-led coalition strikes on the outskirts of the village and the arrival of Kurdish forces, the monitor said.
The IS assault on Kobane prompted angry Kurdish accusations that Turkey had allowed the jihadists to enter Syria from its territory, a claim Turkish officials dismissed as “baseless.”
As the Kobane attack began on Thursday, IS forces also entered the northeastern city of Hasakeh.
Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Centre think tank, said the two-pronged assault was a diversionary tactic after Kurdish forces advanced to within 55 kilometers (35 miles) of Raqa this week.