The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist group is no different from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an said on Saturday.
“For us, the PKK is the same as ISIL. It is wrong to consider them as different from each other,” Erdo?an told reporters in ?stanbul as he criticized pro-Kurdish politicians in Turkey who have slammed the government for not helping Syrian Kurds defend the Kurdish town of Kobani near the border with Turkey.
Kobani is under ISIL attack, and Syrian Kurds had called for help, warning of a massacre if the town were to be seized by ISIL. The crisis in Kobani has sparked a refugee inflow into Turkey and sporadic clashes on the border between Turkish security forces and Turkish Kurds who want to cross into Syria to hold Kobani’s defense.
Erdo?an criticized the pro-Kurdish politicians for linking the crisis in Kobani to Turkey’s efforts to resolve the Kurdish issue through talks with the PKK’s imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan, saying those who try to end the process “will pay the price.”
“Some visit Kobani and then say ‘Kobani is under attack. Turkey is not doing anything to help.’ Where do people who come from Kobani go? Where do they take refuge? They take refuge in Turkey and Turkey is hosting them. But despite this, those who are involved in PKK terrorism are making an effort to stake a claim in this [Kobani crisis],” Erdo?an said. “It is not possible for us to see this positively.”
ISIL forces shelled the Syrian border town of Kobani on Saturday and its Kurdish defenders said they were expecting a new assault to try to capture it.
US-led coalition warplanes had struck at ISIL targets overnight to halt the insurgents’ advance and Saturday’s barrages were less intense than the previous day.
“Clashes continue now; they are shelling on all three fronts. They tried to invade Kobani last night but they were repelled,” senior Kurdish official Asya Abdullah told Reuters from the town on Saturday.
“We think they are planning to launch another big attack but the YPG [People’s Protection Unit] is prepared to resist them,” she said, referring to the Kurdish armed group defending it.
Previous coalition air strikes have failed to stop the insurgent offensive and an estimated 180,000 people have fled across the border into Turkey to escape the fighting around Kobani — a conflict now overshadowing Syria’s wider civil war.
ISIL said they would take the town within days and boasted they would pray in its mosques for the Muslim religious festival of Eid al-Adha, which began on Saturday.
The militant group stepped up its offensive close to the Turkish border last month, seizing surrounding villages and advancing to within a few kilometers (miles) of Kobani, which is also known as Ayn al-Arab. Its capture would allow ISIL to consolidate its hold on swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq.
Swift offensives by ISIL since June have sent shockwaves through the region and prompted the United States and its allies to carry out a series of bombing raids to halt the insurgents’ rapid advance.
Rami Abdelrahman, who runs the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said several hundred people had been killed on both sides since the assault on Kobani started two weeks ago.
The rumble of artillery could be heard on both the eastern and western flanks of the town on Saturday but the barrage was less intense than on the previous day, a Reuter’s witness said.
Coalition warplanes destroyed one insurgent vehicle and killed five fighters during raids in the countryside to the east and south of Kobani on Friday night, the observatory said. Ten Kurdish fighters were also killed in heavy fighting that carried on long into the night.
Turkey has so far taken a backseat in the fight against ISIL, who until last month held 46 Turks as hostages. But their release and a decision by Parliament to renew a mandate allowing Turkish troops to intervene in Syria and Iraq has raised the prospect of a more active role by Turkey.
Erdo?an also warned against any attack on Turkish soldiers stationed at Süleyman ?ah’s tomb, a Turkish exclave in Syria reportedly surrounded by ISIL fighters.
“If anything happens there we cannot hesitate, and everything will change,” he said.todayszaman
Islamic State fighters advanced into the south west of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani overnight, a monitoring group said on Tuesday, taking several buildings to gain attacking positions from two sides of the city.
The prospect that the town on the Turkish border could fall to militants who have besieged it for three weeks has increased pressure on Turkey, with the strongest army in the region, to join an international coalition to fight against Islamic State.
From across the nearby Turkish border two Islamic State flags could be seen flying over the eastern side of Kobani. Two air strikes hit the area and sporadic gunfire could be heard.
Islamic State fighters were using heavy weapons and shells to hit Kobani, senior Kurdish official Asya Abdullah told Reuters from inside the town.
“Yesterday there was a violent clash. We have fought hard to keep them out of the town,” she said by telephone. “The clashes are not in the whole of Kobani, but in specific areas, on the outskirts and towards the center.”
Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot, has ramped up its offensive in recent days against the mainly Kurdish border town, despite being targeted by U.S.-led coalition led air strikes aimed at halting its progress.
The group wants to take Kobani to consolidate a dramatic sweep across northern Iraq and Syria, in the name of an absolutist version of Sunni Islam, that has sent shockwaves through the Middle East.
“There were clashes overnight. Not heavy but ISIS is going forward from the southwest. They have crossed into Kobani and control some buildings in the city there,” said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group that monitors the conflict with a network on the ground. ISIS is a former name for Islamic State.
“They are about 50 meters inside the southwest of the city,” Abdulrahman said.
An estimated 180,000 people have fled into Turkey from the Kobani region following the Islamic State advance. More than 2,000 Syrian Kurds including women and children were evacuated from the town after the latest fighting, a member of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) said on Monday.
Before the offensive, Kobani, known as Ayn al-Arab in Arabic, was home to refugees from the civil war which pits rebels against President Bashar al-Assad and has deteriorated into hundreds of localized battles between different factions.
The most powerful of the myriad militias fighting against Assad, Islamic State has boosted its forces with foreign fighters and defectors from other rebel groups. It gained additional heavy weaponry after its fighters swept through northern Iraq in June, seizing arms from the fleeing Iraqi army.
The group released a video showing dozens of men said to be from Ahrar al-Sham, a rival Islamist group which has clashed with it in the past, pledging allegiance to its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, SITE monitoring service said on Monday.
U.S. DEPLOYS APACHES
The United States has been bombing Islamic State positions in Iraq since August and extended the campaign to Syria in September. Arab states have joined both campaigns, while other Western countries are participating in Iraq but not Syria.
Two months in to the U.S. campaign, the U.S. military has added a new weapon to its arsenal in Iraq, using Apache helicopters for the first time, U.S. officials said on Monday.
Army Major Curtis Kellogg said Baghdad had asked for helicopter support near Fallujah to push back militants west of the capital Baghdad.
The low-flying helicopters give the U.S. military greater capacity to identify individual targets and provide close air support to Iraqi troops in combat, suggesting close cooperation with forces on the ground. But they also expose U.S. troops to far greater risk from ground fire.
Turkey, a NATO member which shares a 900 kilometer (500 mile) border with Syria and has the most powerful military in the area, has so far refrained from joining the campaign, but the plight of Kobani has increased pressure to act.
Turkey says the scope of the campaign in Syria should be broadened to seek to remove Assad from power. It has sought a no-fly zone in northern Syria, which would require the coalition to take on Assad’s air force as well as Islamic State, a move Washington has not agreed to.
“We are ready to do everything if there is a clear strategy and if we can be sure that our border can be protected after (Islamic State is gone),” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in an interview with CNN International.
“We don’t want the regime anymore on our border pushing people towards Turkey. We don’t want other terrorist organizations … If Assad stays in Damascus with this brutal policy, if (Islamic State) goes another radical organization may come.”
The brother of a British aid worker who was beheaded by Islamic State said Britain should put troops on the ground in the Middle East to fight against the militants.
“We need to send ground troops in or forces in to find out where these monsters are and bring them to justice,” said Reg Henning, whose 47-year-old brother Alan was killed last week. “The sooner we do it, the sooner the killing stops.” “Go and find them, bring them to justice, bring them over here, let us try them,” he was quoted as saying on the BBC website.
Alan Henning’s killing has been condemned by Western leaders and British Muslim groups alike. He was the fourth Western hostage executed by Islamic State fighters since the United States launched strikes on the group in Iraq in August.reuters