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Kurds Head to Syria to Fight Militants 09/20 09:46

   Hundreds of Kurdish fighters have crossed from Turkey into neighboring Syria 
to defend a Kurdish area under attack by Islamic State militants, activists 
said Saturday. Fighting there led another prominent Kurdish official to appeal 
for international assistance in their battle against the extremists.

   BEIRUT (AP) -- Hundreds of Kurdish fighters have crossed from Turkey into 
neighboring Syria to defend a Kurdish area under attack by Islamic State 
militants, activists said Saturday. Fighting there led another prominent 
Kurdish official to appeal for international assistance in their battle against 
the extremists.

   The movement of hundreds of Kurdish fighters into Syria reflected the 
ferocity of the fighting in the northern Kobani area, which borders Turkey. 
Militants of the extremist Islamic State group have been barreling through the 
area over the past three days, seizing villages and forcing tens of thousands 
of Syrian Kurds to flee.

   "Kobani is facing the fiercest and most barbaric attack in its history," 
said official Mohammed Saleh Muslim, head of Syria's powerful Kurdish 
Democratic Union. The groups' members dominate the Syrian Kurdish group known 
as the YPK, which is fighting the Islamic State militants.

   "Kobani calls on all those who defend humane and democratic values ... to 
stand by Kobani and support it immediately. The coming hours are decisive," he 
said in a message sent to reporters.

   The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Kurdish official 
Nawaf Khalil said that the fighters were streaming into the Kobani. The 
Observatory, which obtains its information from a network of activists on the 
ground, estimated their numbers in the hundreds.

   Syrian Kurdish fighters had been successfully fighting off the militants for 
the past two years. They even clashed with the Islamic State group's fighters 
in northern Iraq, carving a safe passage for thousands of embattled Iraqis of 
the Yazidi minority, whom the militant group sees as apostates.

   But the tide changed in September. Islamic State group fighters, using 
weapons and armor seized from Iraqi soldiers who fled the militants' advance in 
June, are now sweeping through the Kobani area.

   As the fighting continued, Khalil said Kurdish fighters had evacuated 
several other villages preemptively to ensure the safety of residents. At least 
45,000 Syrian Kurds had crossed into Turkey since Friday, Turkish Deputy Prime 
Minister Numan Kurtulmus said.

   "Some of our brothers are being placed with their relatives, some are being 
taken to local schools and state facilities, others are being hosted in tents," 
Kurtulmus said.

   On Friday, the president of Iraq's largely autonomous Kurdish region, Masoud 
Barzani, warned that the Islamic State group's attacks on the Kobani area in 
northern Syria "threaten the whole entirety of the Kurdish nation and it has 
targeted the honor, dignity and existence of our people."

   Ethnic Kurds dominate a mountainous region that straddles Iran, Iraq, Syria 
and Turkey.

   The battle over Kobani is part of a long-running fight between the Islamic 
State group and Syria's Kurds that has raged across several areas of northern 
Syria where large numbers of Kurds live. The clashes are but one aspect of 
Syria's broader civil war --- a multilayered conflict that the U.N. says has 
killed more than 190,000.


(KA)


 
 
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