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Kurds repel jihadist attack on Syrian town - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani, as seen from near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province October 6, 2014. (REUTERS/Umit Bektas)

Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani, as seen from near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province October 6, 2014. (REUTERS/Umit Bektas)

Beirut, AP—Kurdish forces defending a Syrian town near the Turkish border clashed with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group on Monday after repelling a wide-ranging jihadist assault the day before in battles that left dozens dead on both sides.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a statement from the Kurdish force known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, said more than 45 fighters on both sides were killed Sunday near the town of Kobani, including a Kurdish female fighter who blew herself up, killing several jihadists.

Kobani and surrounding areas have been under attack since mid-September, with ISIS militants capturing dozens of nearby Kurdish villages. The assault has forced some 160,000 Syrians to flee and strained Kurdish forces, who have struggled to push back the jihadists despite being aided by US-led coalition airstrikes.

On the Turkish side of the border, at least 14 Turkish army tanks took up defensive positions on a hilltop near Kobani. Heavy bombardment could be heard down below as plumes of smoke rose from the town.

A shell from the fighting struck a house and a small grocery store across the border in Turkey, but no one was wounded. At least four people were injured in a similar incident on Sunday.

The YPG said in a statement that there were 50 points of clashes around Kobani on Sunday, adding that 74 ISIS fighters as well as 15 Kurdish gunmen were killed. The Observatory said 27 jihadists and 19 Kurds were killed in the battles, making it one of the deadliest days since the latest round of fighting began three weeks ago.

Syrian Kurdish forces have long been among the most effective adversaries of the ISIS group, keeping it out of their enclave in northeastern Syria even as the extremists routed the armed forces of both Syria and neighboring Iraq in recent months.

But in recent weeks the overstretched Kurds have struggled to counter the jihadists, who have looted heavy arms and vehicles from captured Syrian and Iraqi army bases.

“They are using tanks, artillery and all kinds of weapons they captured in Iraq and Syria,” said Nasser Haj Mansour, a defense official in Syria’s Kurdish region, referring to the ISIS group, which has declared a caliphate in the large areas it controls in both countries.

The Observatory’s chief Rami Abdurrahman said on Monday that one of the attacks against ISIS a day earlier was carried out by a female Kurdish fighter who blew herself up, killing 10 jihadists.

The YPG statement identified the suicide attacker as Deilar Kanj Khamis, better known by her military name, Arin Mirkan.

Khamis was a member of the women’s branch of the YPG. The force has more than 10,000 female fighters who have played a major role in the battles against ISIS, Haj Mansour said.

Haj Mansour said Kurdish fighters withdrew from a position on the strategic hill of Mashta Nour near Kobani. Khamis stayed behind, and as the ISIS fighters moved in she attacked them with gunfire and grenades, eventually blowing herself up. The Kurds then recaptured the position.

“If necessary, all our female and male fighters will become Arin. The attacks by mercenaries of Daesh against Kobani will not be allowed to achieve their goals,” the YPG statement said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for Syria’s leading Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, said: “Yesterday was a very violent day but they were neither able to enter Kobani nor Mashta Nour.”

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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