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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Iraqi Kurdish fighters to fly to Turkey before crossing into Kobani

A convoy of Kurdish peshmerga fightersDozens of fighters leave Irbil after Ankara finally agrees to help peshmerga from Iraq cross into Syria to fight Isis militants
A convoy of peshmerga fighters drive through Irbil after leaving a base in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region on Tuesday. Photograph: Reuters
 
Scores of heavily armed Kurdish peshmerga are expected in the embattled Syrian town of Kobani early on Wednesday after Turkey performed a surprise U-turn and agreed to allow them to enter its territory to prevent the fall of the town to Islamic State (Isis) jihadis.
A convoy of peshmerga left the Iraqi-Kurdish capital Irbil to join forces with fighters in Syria pushing back the attack by Isis militants on Kobani, a Kurdish town on Syria’s northern border with Turkey. About 150 fighters carrying heavy weaponry, including long-range missiles, are expected to enter the town, along with armoured vehicles and ambulances.
Asya Abdullah, co-chair of the People’s Democratic party (PYD) in Kobani, said the administration had little information about the the peshmerga: “This is a military matter. The YPG [Syrian People’s Defence Corps] fighters are in contact with the peshmerga leadership. They are planning this together.”
She voiced satisfaction with the support from the Iraqi Kurdish government: “This is a good development. It is not the first time the YPG and the peshmerga have fought together [against Isis]. Their backing will help Kobani.”
Last week the Iraqi Kurdish regional government approved military support for Kobani. Despite fierce resistance Isis has captured hundreds of villages around Kobani and controls part of the town. About 800 people are said to have died and an estimated 200,000 have fled to Turkey.
According to Turkish media reports, the convoy of 80 vehicles is expected to enter Turkey through the Habur border gate from where it will follow the main road along the Turkish-Syrian border to Suruç and Kobani.
The remaining Kurdish combatants will fly into Sanliurfa at midnight and drive to Kobani from there.
A US-led military coalition has been conducting air strikes on and around Kobani for several weeks. Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a TV interview on Tuesday that air strikes alone would not be enough to repel Isis militants and that a ground operation was indispensable to retake the town.
“Saving Kobani, retaking Kobani and some area around Kobani from Isis, there’s a need for a military operation,” he said in an interview with the BBC, adding that nobody should expect Turkey to send ground troops to Syria without commitment from Nato allies. The Turkish government has argued that support for “moderate opposition forces” was the only way to gain ground in Syria.

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