22 September 2014

ISIS closes in on Syria border town

Sep 22, 2014 
Kurdish people clash with Turkish soldiers near the Syrian border after Turkish authorities temporarily closed the border. AFP

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) closed in on Syria’s third-largest Kurdish town on Sunday as tens of thousands fled in terror across the border into Turkey. The UN refugee agency said as many as 70,000 Syrian Kurds had poured into Turkey since guards cut barbed wire to open the border on Friday.

Kurdish fighters in the area, backed by reinforcements from Turkey, are battling to hold off the jihadists’ advance on the strategic border town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds.

Turkish security forces used tear gas and water cannon Sunday to disperse a Kurdish demonstration of support for fellow Kurds who fled a jihadist offensive across the border in Syria. Hundreds of young demonstrators fought back by hurling rocks and setting up barricades on the road leading to a nearby border crossing.

“We’ve come to support our brothers in Syria under attack by Daesh (ISIS),” Turkish Kurdish demonstrator Mehmet Eminakma said.

The ISIS, now known as the Islamic State, has seized large parts of Iraq and Syria, declaring a “caliphate”, imposing its harsh interpretation of Islamic law and committing widespread atrocities including beheadings and crucifixions.

Local officials have warned of potential massacres should ISIS extremists take control of further territory in Kurdish parts of Syria, and have pleaded for an international intervention.

But despite promises by Washington to expand its air campaign against ISIS in Iraq to Syria, there were no signs yet of US strikes in the country.

The United States indicated that other countries are willing to launch airstrikes against Islamic militants in Syria, its UN ambassador said on Sunday, predicting “we will not do the airstrikes alone.”

On the influx of Syrian Kurds in Turkey, UNHCR said it feared the number of refugees would only grow.

“Turkish government authorities and UNHCR are preparing for the possibility of hundreds of thousands more refugees arriving over the coming days, as the battle... Forces more people to flee,” it said in a statement.

On the other hand in Iraq, government forces launched an operation on Sunday to rescue an Army battalion which has come under repeated attack by militants near the western city of Fallujah, military sources said. The assault involving Army, police, counter-terrorism units and Shia volunteers is aimed at pushing back Sunni militants who have been besieging an Army base for more than a week.

“Forces from the interior and defence ministries, counter-terrorism forces and volunteers are advancing to clear the Al-Sijr area,” Iraqi military spokesman Qassem Atta said.

The operation is backed by US air support, he said, without elaborating.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Pentagon of any US airstrikes in the area, which is barely 50 km west of the capital Baghdad.

Meanwhile, Kurdish militants in Turkey have issued a new call to arms to defend a border town in northern Syria from advancing ISIS fighters, and the Turkish authorities and United Nations prepared on Sunday for a surge in refugees.

Separately, the majority of French favour military intervention against ISIS militants in Iraq, according to an Ifop poll carried out for French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.

Argentine President threatened

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez said during a trip to the Vatican on Saturday she had received threats by the ISIS due to her friendship with compatriot Pope Francis and for recognising both Israel and Palestine. Ms Fernandez said the intelligence services were now dealing with the threat.

EU not aware of ISIS threat

The European Commission said on Sunday it has not been told of any specific threat against it, after reports suggested its Brussels headquarters was a possible target for jihadist fighters returning from Syria. Belgian authorities confirmed on Saturday they had made several arrests.

No comments: