Islamic State rampage said to target civilians
‘ Entire families’ are among the more than 140 killed around Kobani, Syria, a Kurdish- majority city near Turkey, a rights watchdog says
AMMAN, Jordan — Islamic State militants went on a bloody rampage in and around the Kurdish- majority Syrian city of Kobani on Friday, officials said, executing at least 142 civilians before withdrawing as fighting continued in the town for a second day.
Islamic State’s aim was to terrorize the community near the Turkish border, the scene of heavy f ighting last year, said Idriss Naasan, vice minister for foreign affairs in Kobani’s Kurdish administration.
“They tried to kill the largest number of civilians, so they roamed around neighborhoods and targeted them,” said Naasan, explaining that many women and children had been taken hostage by the militant group, complicating efforts to rout the extremists from the town.
He said the People’s Protection Units known as YPG, a Syrian Kurdish militia that has emerged as a powerful force against Islamic State, “has them surrounded from four points, but fighting continues because they are using civilians as human shields.”
Rami Abdul Rahman, director of the pro- opposition watchdog group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, described the rampage as “a crime against humanity” and “a barbaric massacre” in an interview with Sky News Arabia on Friday.
“The executions were perpetrated against entire families; [ they were] completely exterminated,” he said, adding that the death total would make this the second- largest massacre perpetrated by the group. At least 28 Islamic State militants were killed in the clashes.
Kurdish activists uploaded scores of pictures showing victims as well as grim images of freshly dug trenches.
On Thursday, Islamic State f ighters disguised as YPG f ighters infiltrated Kobani after detonating a car bomb near the Mursitpinar crossing with Turkey. The group also struck the village of Barkh Botan, leaving at least 20 villagers dead as it made its way toward Kobani, 20 miles to the north.
It was the f irst attack on Kobani in six months, after YPG forces, backed by U. S. planes, thwarted a campaign by Islamic State to take the town. Yet, despite thousands of tons of ordnance pounding Islamic State targets, the group has maintained its presence in northeastern Syria.
Meanwhile, Syrian army units continued to battle Islamic State militants in the northeastern city of Hasaka, where fighting has displaced an estimated 60,000 civilians, according to the United Nations. The U. N. on Thursday also warned that the violence could spur an exodus of 200,000 refugees toward the border city of Qamishli.
Hasaka province governor Mohammad Zaal al- Ali reassured civilians that the city was secure and that army and national defense units would remain in place.
“This is a call to the citizens of Hasaka to return to their homes and be steadfast in them,” Ali said in an interview with Syrian state news agency SANA on Friday, denying reports of withdrawals from the city by police and army units with state institutions.
Many Kurds blame Islamic State’s rampage against Kurdish areas in Syria on neighboring Turkey, whom they accuse of granting open access to the militant group across its border with Syria. They also point to recent successes by Kurdish and Syrian opposition forces against Islamic State, such as in the border town of Tal Abyad, about 40 miles southeast of Kobani.
“The aim is to obstruct the joint forces that are liberating these areas of terrorists,” explained Naasan , blaming “regional agendas that are afraid of the Kurds enjoying their right to selfdetermination.”
Turkey sees the YPG as little more than a branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, with which it has been locked in warfare for more than 30 years.
TURKISH SOLDIERS stand guard in Suruc, and Kurds wait for relatives near the Syrian border as f ighting continues in Kobani, where Islamic State militants had been pushed back months ago by Kurdish militias.
ACROSS THE BORDER in Turkey, a girl is treated after being injured in Kobani. Women and children were also reported kidnapped by the militants.