MURSITPINAR, Turkey – Several Syrian human rights groups called on the world to save the embattled Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani from falling into the hands of the Islamic State group as a new U.S.-led airstrikes targeted the extremists near the town Wednesday.
The dramatic appeal late Tuesday came after Islamic State fighters pushed into parts of the town, located on the Syria-Turkish border and also known as Ayn Arab, its Arabic name.
Kobani has been under the onslaught of the Islamic State group since mid-September when the militants’ launched their offensive in the area, capturing several Kurdish villages around the town and bringing Syria’s civil war yet again to Turkey’s doorstep.
The fighting has forced some 200,000 of the town residents and villagers from the area to flee and seek shelter across the frontier in Turkey. Activists also say that more than 400 people have been killed in the fighting.
Around noon Wednesday, warplanes believed to be of the U.S.-led coalition bombed positions of the Islamic State group near Kobani. One airstrike, visible from the border, hit a hill and an open space near the town.
Meanwhile, heavy gunfire was heard from inside the town in a sign of fresh clashes. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said most of the fighting as in the town’s Kani Arban neighbourhood.
In their appeal, seven rights groups including the Kurdish Organization for Human Rights and the Human Rights Organization in Syria said Islamic State fighters’ offensive on Kobani and their “inhuman practices and measures have taken a clear form of persecution and ethnic cleansing.”
The statement also said that the fighting over Kobani has displaced nearly 280,000 people who fled fearing “killings, executions, throat slitting, beheadings, mayhem and kidnaping of women and children.”
The Islamic State group has conquered vast swaths of Syria and Iraq, declaring a self-styled caliphate governed by its strict interpretation of Islamic law, or Shariah. The militants have massacred captured Syrian and Iraqi troops, terrorized minorities and beheaded two American journalists and two British aid workers.
Last week, Islamic State fighters also beheaded nine Kurdish fighters, including three women, captured in clashes around Kobani.