Fighting has raged in the Syrian border town of Kobane after jihadists launched a new assault on Kurdish militia bolstered by the arrival of heavily armed Iraqi peshmerga forces.
The roughly 150 Iraqi fighters, many of them chanting “Kobane”, received a hero’s welcome as they crossed the border from Turkey late on Friday to join fellow Kurds trying to repel the Islamic State (IS) group.
The town has become a key battleground whose capture would be a major prize for the jihadists, giving them unbroken control of a long stretch of Syria’s border with Turkey.
Fierce clashes in and around Kobane have killed about 100 IS fighters in the past three days, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
Fifteen Kurdish defenders also lost their lives on Friday, according to the Britain-based monitoring group, which relies on a wide network of sources inside Syria.
It said in total 958 people had been killed since IS launched an assault on Kobane in mid-September – 576 IS jihadists, 361 Kurdish fighters and 21 civilians.
IS has seized large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq for a self-proclaimed “caliphate”, imposing its harsh interpretation of Islamic sharia law.
The United States, along with European and Arab allies, has conducted daily air raids against the group.
Kobane’s defenders have been pleading for reinforcements and the peshmerga armed with machine-guns, heavy artillery and rocket launchers travelled through Turkey to Syria from Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.
Intense fighting erupted late Friday in the town and continued during the night as Kurdish fighters fended off a new IS attack in the north of the city, the Observatory said.
Gunfire and explosions were heard on Saturday morning although the peshmerga forces were not thought to have yet joined the fighting, it said.