of Syrian Kurds enter Turkey, fleeing Islamic State advance
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[September 20, 2014]
By Seyhmus Cakan
SANLIURFA Turkey (Reuters) - Tens of
thousands of Syrian Kurds have crossed into Turkey over the past day,
fleeing an advance by Islamic State fighters who have seized dozens of
villages close to the border, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan
Kurtulmus said on Saturday.
Turkey opened a stretch of the frontier on Friday after Kurdish
civilians fled their homes, fearing an imminent attack on the Syrian
border town of Ayn al-Arab, known as Kobani in Kurdish.
"Around 45,000 Syrian Kurds have crossed the border as of now from
eight entrance points along a 30-km distance from Akcakale to
Mursitpinar since we opened the border yesterday," Kurtulmus told
CNN Turk television.
Islamic State's advances in northern Syria have prompted calls for
help by the region's Kurds who fear an impending massacre in the
town of Kobani, which sits in a strategic position on the border.
Esmat al-Sheikh, head of Kurdish forces defending Kobani, said
clashes were taking place north and east of the town on Saturday.
Islamic State fighters using rockets, artillery, tanks and armored
vehicles had advanced further towards Kobani overnight and were now
within 15 km (9 miles) of the town, he told Reuters by telephone.
At least 18 Islamic State fighters were killed in clashes with
Syrian Kurds overnight as the militant group took control of more
villages around the town, according to the Syrian Observatory for
Human Rights, which monitors the war.
Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani called on Friday for
international intervention to protect Kobani from the Islamic State
advance, saying the insurgents must be "hit and destroyed wherever
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The United States is drawing up plans for military action in Syria
against the radical Sunni Muslim group which has seized swathes of
territory in Syria and Iraq, proclaiming a caliphate in the heart of
the Middle East.
Western states have increased contact with the main Syrian Kurdish
political party, the PYD, whose armed wing is the YPG, since Islamic
State led a lightning advance in Iraq in June.
The YPG says it has 50,000 fighters and should be a natural partner
in a coalition the United States is trying to assemble to fight
But such cooperation could prove difficult because of Syrian Kurds'
ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a group listed as a
terrorist organization by many Western states due to the militant
campaign it has waged for Kurdish rights in Turkey.
(Additional reporting by Asli Kandemir in Istanbul and Sylvia
Westall in Beirut,; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Janet
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