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Heavy fighting near Syrian town


Turkish soldiers overlook the fighting positions between Syrian Kurds and Islamic State militants. (AP)

Turkish soldiers overlook the fighting positions between Syrian Kurds and Islamic State militants. (AP)

Turkish soldiers overlook the fighting positions between Syrian Kurds and Islamic State militants. (AP)

Fierce clashes are under way near a Syrian Kurdish town close to the border with Turkey as the Islamic State group presses its assault to capture Kobani, according to activists and Kurdish fighters.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported intense fighting to the east and south east of Kobani, saying the town's Kurdish fighters destroyed two vehicles belonging to the militants.

Nasser Haj Mansour, a defence official in Syria's Kurdish region, said the Kurdish militiamen repelled the latest attack by the IS group east of Kobani and destroyed one tank.

The Kurdish town and the surrounding area have been under attack since mid-September, with militants capturing dozens of nearby Kurdish villages. The assault has forced 160,000 Syrians to flee across the border into Turkey in recent days.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said seven Islamic State (IS) fighters were killed in a village near the town, also known as Ayn Arab.

The latest round of fighting came after Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Turkey's ATV television station that his government does not want Kobani to be captured.

Mr Davutoglu said: "We would not want Kobani to fall. We have opened our arms to our brothers who have come from Kobani. We would do whatever is necessary, our utmost to prevent Kobani's fall."

His comments came after Turkey's parliament gave the government new powers to launch military incursions into Syria and Iraq, and to allow foreign forces to use its territory for possible operations against IS.

Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for Syria's leading Kurdish Democratic Union Party, said: "How does he want to prevent the fall of Kobani and until now Turkey has done nothing."

Mr Khalil added that Kobani is now almost empty of civilians and that the situation around the town is "very dangerous". He said Kurdish fighters in the town "will fight until the last gunman and last gunwoman".

The Observatory reported intense shelling of Kobani, saying that a volunteer fighting with the Kurdish force known as the People's Protection Unit, or YPK, was killed. It said at least 60 shells had struck the town today.

A journalist at the Turkish border town of Suruc reported intense shelling of Kobani from the south and west.

Ismet Sheikh Hassan, the Kurdish defence minister for the Kobani region, said IS fighters were trying to advance from the east, west and south east of Kobani. He said jihadis fired rockets on the town, and called on the US-led coalition "to hit the tanks instead of bases".

The Observatory and the Local Co-ordination Committees, which also monitors Syria's civil war, reported several air strikes by the coalition targeting IS positions in the northern provinces of Raqqa and Aleppo, as well as the eastern oil-rich region of Deir el-Zour which borders Iraq.

The Syrian government warned Turkey that deploying troops inside its borders will be seen as an "aggression", calling on the international community to "put limits to the adventures" of the Turkish leadership.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said the Turkish decision is an "aggression against a founding member of the United Nations".

Turkey has been one of the strongest backers of Syrian opposition groups trying to remove president Bashar Assad from power.