Twitter reports indicate that the northern Syria town of Kobane is falling to ISIS despite the best attempts of Kurdish forces to beat back the advance.
The city of Kobane and surrounding towns normally have a population estimated at 350,000, but Kurdish news organization Rudaw reported that only 10 percent of residents were left. Some residents including Sunnis and Christians have been attempting to flee to Turkey, only to have their escape hampered by the border guards. Some villagers in towns already seized by ISIS have been raped and murdered or beheaded.
The city is so close to the border that Kurds and media in Turkey have been able to watch the battle from the hills.
The Observer reported on the story of Mostafa Kader, who had fled Kobane 10 days earlier with his wife and their two small children:
His uncle planned to join them but at the last minute changed his mind, unable to leave a village that had been his home for more than eight decades. The militants beheaded him, refugees arriving later told Kader.
“He was 85 – he could not even lift a weapon,” said the young father, baffled by the brutality. Even more haunting were stories from his wife’s village, where the fleeing family found the bodies of her sister and an eight-year-old niece lying in pools of blood.
“They had been raped, and their hearts were cut out of their chests and left on top of the bodies,” he said, struggling to hold back tears. “I buried them with my own hands.”
Kobane has been surrounded by ISIS for two weeks now, prompting Kurdish-Americans to plead for help from Washington and question why support hadn’t come earlier to help prevent a massacre.
“Obviously we – ISIL is clearly, as you noted, trying to gain control of the border crossings with Turkey by taking the opposition-held towns between Aleppo and the border. We’ve seen, of course, the comments of the Turkish leaders. As you also may know, several individual opposition groups have formed de facto coalitions which include both Kurds and Sunnis in some of these towns, including near the Turkish border, to kind of unite and work together to fight this,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Friday.
“We are also assisting in this. We – coalition airstrikes, some in predominantly Kurdish areas that are ongoing, we feel are helping Kurdish and opposition fighters as they exert pressure on ISIL. So this week alone, we note that CENTCOM did strikes in Kobani that hit an ISIL – hit on ISIL tanks, artillery, and armor. And obviously, this is an ongoing effort.”
Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said Friday that they have been “long watching the situation around Kobane.”
“We watched as ISIL — we began to, you know, watch them as they tried to — dispersing out of Raqqa, and heading towards Kobane, we’ve been aware of the threat that they pose to that place and to the residents there,” Kirby said. “…But we’re broadly focused, not just on one city and one town. We have to stay broadly focused on the whole region and the threat that ISIL poses to both countries across what is essentially no border at all.”
— #No2ISIS (@No2ISIS) October 6, 2014
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) October 6, 2014
— Rami(ط) (@RamiAlLolah) October 6, 2014
— Hamo (@KekHamo) October 6, 2014