ISIS Advances On Kobani With Additional Fighters, Weapons
ARUN RATH, HOST:
Out-gunned Kurdish fighters are continuing to resist militants from the so-called Islamic State in the Syrian border town of Kobani. A monitoring group says, the ISIS fighters have received reinforcements and new weapons, and the fighting is street to street.
(SOUNDBITE OF GUNSHOTS)
RATH: NPR's Peter Kenyon recorded that sound from across the border in southeastern Turkey. He's also been visiting with refugees there and joins me now. Peter, let's start with the battle for Kobani. How is that going?
PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Well, the fighting's been fierce this weekend, with sustained clashes like the one we just listened to both yesterday and today. Fighters and residents inside Kobani who've been speaking to us and to monitors such as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights - they say, it seems that more ISIS fighters have showed up in Kobani - new weapons - and they now control some of the town.
But up until now, the YPG Kurdish fighters who are defending the heart of the town have been able to keep them out and keep ISIS away from the border-crossing with Turkey. If that happens, the loss of life could be calamitous. There's also U.S.-led airstrikes going on, which, the fighters say, have helped, but what they really need are heavier weapons if they want to push them out of the town.
RATH: And what is the scene like on the Turkish side of the border?
KENYON: Well, on this side, as you can imagine, refugee camps are filling up. There's a new one being built, with people waiting to get in. The men tend to gather on the hills over the border and watch the fighting during the day. I have to say, I'm noticing more and more tensions here. The Kurds really believe Turkish security forces are secretly assisting the ISIS fighters or, at least, turning a blind eye, while Kurdish people trying to cross - especially young men at the border - are subjected to grilling and investigation.
One example - we're in a hospital today, looking for wounded from Kobani. And it very soon became apparent that people suspected us of trying to identify Kurdish fighters who might then be arrested. So Kobani people are very happy to have a safe place here, but they don't exactly feel welcome.
RATH: And Turkey has been unwilling, so far, to intervene to save Kobani, but it's still taken in 180,000 refugees from there. Now it seems some of those residents are making the much longer trek toward Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. What can you tell us about that?
KENYON: Yes, that was a bit surprising. We started hearing reports of this a couple of days ago, and now we hear that as many as 3,000 families from the Kobani area may have arrived at Dohuk, over in northern Iraq. If they had walked, that would be a much more arduous journey than the crossing to Turkey. It is possible they went through Turkey via car, which would be somewhat easier. But in any event, Dohuk's already hosting large numbers of displaced people - entire villages of displaced minority Yazidis and Christians from Iraq. So where they will wind up, we don't know. But clearly, some people from Kobani are now looking for somewhere other than Turkey to land.
RATH: And speaking of Iraq, the conflict next door there with ISIS still is ranging. The news there today is primarily from areas east and west of Baghdad.
KENYON: That's right. In the west, in Anbar Province, the provincial police chief, Major General Ahmed Saddag al-Dulaimi was killed in a roadside bomb attack. He was on patrol near Ramadi. And to the East, in Diyala Province, there were more explosions that killed more than two dozen people at a Kurdish security center - a lot of them being Peshmerga forces.
These attacks followed other explosions yesterday, all of which is giving rise to criticism that the U.S.-led strategy just isn't working, to which the administrations says, well, it was never supposed to be an instant solution. This is a long-term strategy. It is progressing, but in the meantime, setbacks in various individual battles are probably unavoidable.
RATH: That's NPR's Peter Kenyon in southeastern Turkey. Peter, thank you.
KENYON: You're welcome, Arun. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.