ISIS advances toward strategic Turkish-Syrian border city
TURKISH-SYRIAN BORDER (CNN) — ISIS is getting closer to capturing a key city that would mark not just a huge strategic victory, but would also deal a devastating blow to the Syrian Kurds trapped by the group’s violent campaign.
The city of Kobani sits near the Turkish border and would give ISIS a complete swath of land between its self-declared capital of Raqqa, Syria, and Turkey — a stretch of more than 100 kilometers (62 miles).
“We are afraid of this. We are obliged to defend our home, our town,” Kurdish Kobani official Idriss Nassan said. “We didn’t choose this war, but we are obliged to fight.”
Members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit, called YPG, and other groups defending the city couldn’t move overnight because of ISIS snipers equipped with night vision equipment, a fighter inside the city told CNN.
Hundreds of people ran north toward the border, trying to find safety in Turkey.
“We want to go across!” they chanted as they pressed against a border fence.
The desperation amid the fear of more carnage was evident.
“It’s the last chance to leave,” said the fighter, who requested that his name be withheld for security reasons.
But Turkish military personnel along the fence ignored the pleas as plumes of smoke billowed into the air over Kobani.
U.S. and allies strike again
ISIS managed to close in on Kobani despite airstrikes by the United States and allied forces over the weekend.
One attack destroyed two ISIS tanks, a bulldozer and another ISIS vehicle, U.S. Central Command said. Two airstrikes hit a large ISIS unit and destroyed six firing positions, the U.S. military said.
But such attacks aren’t enough, Nassan said.
“When I talk to people here in Kobani, they thank the international community, and the United States, they thank the countries who are striking the ISIS. But everyone believes it is not enough,” he said.
The “international community cannot defeat ISIS by just hitting them from the sky. They have to help the people who are fighting — the YPG, the (rebel) Free Syrian Army who are here on the ground.”
In other developments over the weekend:
• ISIS gets Pakistani Taliban endorsement
Pakistani Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid issued a statement backing ISIS, bridging support from one terror group to another.
“The Muslims of the world look to you with great expectation and in this difficult time we, your mujahidin brothers, are with you and will provide you with fighters and help,” the statement said.
• U.S. vice president apologizes
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden apologized to Turkey and the United Arab Emirates for saying Middle Eastern allies are partly to blame for the strengthening of ISIS.
At an appearance last week at Harvard University, he said the militant Islamist group had been inadvertently strengthened by actions allies took to help opposition groups fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world,” Biden said.
On Turkey’s alleged role, he said, “President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan told me … ‘You were right. We let too many people (including foreign fighters) through.’ Now they are trying to seal their border.”
Erdogan vehemently denied ever saying such a thing.
• Marine may be the campaign’s first U.S. casualty
A Marine lost at sea after bailing out of an MV-22 Osprey when it appeared it might crash in the Persian Gulf is believed to be the first American military casualty in support of U.S. operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Cpl. Jordan L. Spears, 21, was declared dead after search and rescue efforts didn’t find him.
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