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

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Nabih Bu­los Bu­los is a spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent.

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.

Bu­lent Kilic AFP/ Getty I mages

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.

I lyas Aken­gin AFP/ Getty I mages

ACROSS THE BOR­DER in Tur­key, a girl is treated af­ter be­ing in­jured in Kobani. Women and chil­dren were also re­ported kid­napped by the mil­i­tants.

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