Turkey ‘let Isil cross border to attack Kobane': as it happened – Telegraph.co.uk
As the fallout from today’s attacks begins, questions will be asked as to how a car rammed-full of explosive was able to infiltrate the heart of a town that was meant to have been secured.
The Kurdish militia YPG has begun to “surround” and “sweep the area” where Isil jihadists infiltrated Kobane, spokesman Rêdûr Xelîl told the Telegraph:
Today’s early morning, a group of five cars, loaded with 30-35 of Isil elements, wearing the clothes and raising the flag of the FSA [Free Syrian Army rebels] has undertaken a suicide attack.
They entered from the South and the West sides of Kobane to inside the town. In the beginning they exploded a suicide car bomb near the crossing [with Turkey] then they opened fire randomly at civilians, among them women and children.
Then they infiltrated inside to the neighborhoods. The YPG has started to surround them and sweep the area where they entered.
So far, 15 of this group were killed. Three of them managed to escape to Turkey. There are still some elements hiding inside the city.
The clashes are still going on between Isil elements and the YPG.
So far, we have no confirmed news, if this group entered Kobane though the Turkish borders or not. The primary information and the eye witnesses say that they entered from Turkey but officially we don’t have confirmed information yet.
Isil attacked a village called Barambarkh, near the area of Terreen, 20 km from Kobane. Terreen is a border Zone with Isil. In the village they are talking about 20 civilians [killed] but I don’t know for sure the credibility of this number.
After Isil has lost many strategic areas, it wants to prove to its supporters and its elements that they are still powerful and capable to do a lot of things. So that is why they attacked Kobane and the south part of Hasakeh.
It’s not easy for Isil to return back to Kobane. We are expecting some operations of that kind as we have 400 km of borders with them but it’s difficult for them to return to occupy the area.”
A video of one of this morning’s Isil suicide bombs in Kobane has emerged
Emma Graham-Harrison of the Guardian is citing a civilian inside Kobane as saying that Isil fighters are going from house to house shooting Kurdish residents.
Civilian inside Kobani says ISIS went house to house shooting people this morning, no one dared leave their home
— Emma Graham-Harrison (@_EmmaGH)
June 25, 2015
The nationalist Southern Front, which includes US-trained fighters, has confirmed that it is taking part in the fight for Daraa, alongside the powerful Islamist groups Ahrar al-Sham and the Al Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra.
“The operation is aimed at liberating the rest of the areas under regime control, mainly Daraa and Mahata station,” said Issam al-Rayyes, a spokesman for the Southern Front, adding that 70% of fighters were drawn from his coalition, and that Ahram al-Sham were working alongside them. “Jabhat al-Nusra are attacking from a different side in smaller numbers,” he said.
“We began at six in the morning with shelling, mortars and hell cannons to pave the way for the groups to enter. The shelling continues until now, and we are preparing to attack the regime areas.”
The Southern Front has notched up some important successes over the past month, notably capturing a a major regime position – Brigade 52 base – in early June, and opening up the route to Daraa city, where it is fighting today.
Figen Yuksekdag, the co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey, told reporters there was a “high probability” that the attackers on Thursday had entered Kobane from Turkey. Ankara has denied such allegations.
Eyewitnesses have also reported seeing the jihadists cross from Turkey.
Successfully taking the southern city of Draa would be a major boost for the rebels, writes Charles Lister:
Notwithstanding a further morale boost for the opposition, taking Daraa city would represent another provincial capital loss for the regime and definitively open the route further north towards Damascus.
With that being said, while Daraa city could very feasibly fall to the opposition in the coming days or weeks, continuing to march north will present far tougher targets that the regime has reinforced since the start of conflict four years ago – Al-Sanamayn being a key example in that respect.
Kali Maho, a media activist in Kobane, has given the Telegraph an account of the fighting following Isil’s attack early this morning:
The clashes started at 4.30 am. A terrorist armed group entered the city, holding explosive belts. They targeted civilians.
Eyewitnesses have told me that the suicide bomber entered the town through the Turkish border. The suicide bombers were wearing the clothes of YPG [the Kurdish militia].
We are locked in the house, while clashes in the streets are taking place as well as collation air strikes.
The clashes are taking place in al-Maqtla neighborhood, near the Boys Secondary school, [in the] south-east of Kobane.
Isil has killed about 20 Kurds in a village 20 km away from Kobane. Most of them are women, children and elders.
About 50 per cent of Kobane residents have retuned back since the end of the war.
Wounded Syrians are being transported into Turkey via the Tal Abyad border, claimed by the Kurds in recent weeks
Turkey’s foreign ministry spokesman said he strongly denied allegations that Islamic State militants who launched a deadly attack on the Syrian town of Kobani on Thursday had come from Turkey, describing the claims as “lies”.
Spokesman Tanju Bilgic told reporters at a regular briefing that 63 wounded people had been brought to Turkey after the attack and that two of them, one a child, had subsequently died.
Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered, an anti-Isil activist group, is reporting two explosions at the Kobani border crossing:
— ????? ???? ???? (@Raqqa_Sl)
June 25, 2015
Footage that appears to show those explosions has appared on Twitter:
— Zaid Benjamin (@zaidbenjamin)
June 25, 2015
Isil has executed 20 Kurds in a village close to Kobane, according to reports.
“Islamic State forces shot dead at least 20 people in the Kurdish village of Barkh Butan, including women and children and residents who had taken up arms to fight,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Families are also fleeing Hasakeh, the second city Isil has attacked today – a city that has itself been the temporary home of other refugees fleeing Isil such as the Yazidis, writes Louisa Loveluck:
Isil’s assault on Hassakeh has begun a new wave of displacement – a video and photographs posted by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights appears to show families leaving the city on foot, their possessions crammed into rucksacks and plastic bags. The city and its surrounding governorate has played host to waves of refugees from elsewhere, particularly from the deeply persecuted Yazidi community. The conflicts in Syria and Iraq alone have forced an estimated 15 million people to flee their homes.
As renewed fighting rages in Kobane, a group of Syrians wait on the Syrian side of the Turkish border, attempting to flee:
“A group of fighters deployed in some areas of Kobani. We are defending a position now,” Ghalia Nehme, a commander with the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units, told The Associated Press by telephone from inside the border town.
Hospital officials in Kobane told Reuters that 12 people were killed and 70 wounded in a car bombing and other attacks by Islamic State fighters.
An alliance of rebels called Jaish al-Fatah in the Southern Region – which includes the Al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra – recently declared a new “Army of Conquest” claiming the city of Daraa:
— Joshua Landis (@joshua_landis)
June 20, 2015
Today’s assault appears to be an attempt to make that territorial claim a reality.
Louisa Loveluck in Cairo reports on the rebels’ assault on Daraa, in southern Syria:
Rebel groups attacked the southern city of Deraa overnight in a move that – if successful – will pile pressure on the Assad regime, opening up the road to the capital, Damascus.
The offensive involves a newly formed rebel coalition, Jaish al-Fatah in the Southern Region, which is dominated by Ahrar al-Sham and the Al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, two of the most powerful fighting groups in the Syrian conflict.
Jaish al-Fatah in the Southern Region has apparently been formed as an Islamist counterweight to a more nationalist, western-backed coalition of fighters, known as the Southern Front, which has scored significant successes on the battlefield in recent months. It’s not yet clear whether the two coalitions will clash or co-exist in what is now a critical offensive for the rebels.
The Isil offensive this morning should be seen as an attempt to distract its enemies from their recent gains in the jihadists’ key territories, writes Charles Lister, visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center and author of The Syrian Jihad
This is classic Isil strategy when under pressure – launching diversionary attacks to distract adversaries from inflicting further threats to Isil’s most valuable territories. In recent days, Isil’s de facto capital in Raqqa has looked genuinely under threat from the Euphrates Volcano coalition.
Isil have also tried to sow discord among its enemies by dressing up as Free Syrian Army rebels, who have in the past allied with the Kurds, according to reports
What’s perhaps most intriguing is reports that the Isil militants who attacked Kobane were disguised as FSA fighters from Euphrates Volcano.
If true, the attack itself and the specific disguises look intended to inflict damaging paranoia within the ranks of Isil’s most capable enemy today. Like diversionary attacks, encouraging division and splitting the ranks of its adversaries has also been a well-tested and consistently used Isil tactic.
Muddying the waters further, an alliance of rebel groups including the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front have launched a separate assault on Daraa, a major city in southern Syria close to the Jordanian border.
Daraa, home to around 100,000 people, was the subject of a 2013 offensive by the Free Syrian Army, which was successfully repelled by the Assad regime.
Insurgents have recently dealt President Bashar al-Assad’s forces significant blows in the region, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
Isil has launched a simultaenous assault on the city of Hasakeh, east of Kobane, in the Kurdish-dominated northeast of Syria.
Pro-government forces in Hasakeh have withdrawn to the city centre following the jihadist assault on the city’s southeast, Isil claims.
The attacks appear to be in response to Kurdish YPG gains in Syria’s northeast, where it recently claimed the border town of Tal Abyad and moved within 30 miles of Raqqa, the Isil de facto capital.
Turkey has immediately denied the claims Isil fighters attacked Kobane from across the Turkish border, in a statement from the provincial governor’s office in Sanliurfa.
The statement instead claims that the assault was launched from the Syrian town of Jarablus, to the west of Kobane, where Isil holds sway.
People gather at Turkish border as smoke trails over during the clashes between Isil and Kurdish groups in Kobane (ANADOLU)
Syrian state TV has claimed that the Isil fighters who attacked Kobane had entered the country from Turkey, the border of which is just a few miles from the town. The Assad government has accused Turkey of supporting the militants and allowing them to funnel fighters and supplies through the country. Ankara has consistently denied those charges, though drew widespread criticism during the first siege of Kobane for failing to act to save the town, with Kurds accusing them of tacitly endorsing the assault.
Meanwhile, hospital officials in Kobane have told Reuters that a total of 12 people were killed and 70 wounded in the car bombing and other attacks by the fighters.
Good morning and welcome to our live blog. Islamic State jihadists have reentered the Syrian Kurdish battleground town of Kobane, detonating a suicide bomb and battling Kurdish forces, according to a monitoring group.
“IS detonated a suicide bomb in the area near the border crossing with Turkey, killing at least five people,” said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman.
A Syrian man walks in front of destroyed buildings in south Kobane on Monday (EPA)
“Fierce clashes erupted afterwards in the centre of the town and there are bodies lying in the streets,” he added, without giving a specific toll.
He said fighting was still raging on Thursday morning.
Welat Omer, a doctor in Kobane, told Reuters that around 60-70 people had been wounded in the latest attacks, many of them women and children.
— Zaid Benjamin (@zaidbenjamin)
June 25, 2015
A Kurdish YPG militia official told Reuters a car bomb had exploded in Kobane near the Turkish border gate on Thursday, as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) staged an attack from three sides of the town,
Isil jihadists battled for some four months to seize Kobane, but Kurdish fighters backed by US-led air strikes secured control of the border town in January in a symbolic defeat for the jihadists.
In the months since, forces of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have advanced from Kobane in Aleppo province into neighbouring Raqqa province, the jihadists’ stronghold.
In recent days, they captured the strategic town of Tal Abyad, also on the border with Turkey, and pushed towards IS’s de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa city in the Euphrates valley to the south.