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Kurds Claim Advances In Kobani; IS Militant Says U.S. Air Strikes Causing Injuries


A militant who is fighting with IS in Syria says that reports of Kurdish advances in Kobani are not true and IS militants fighting in the town are being injured by air strikes, not the Kurds.

A militant who is fighting with IS in Syria says that reports of Kurdish advances in Kobani are not true and IS militants fighting in the town are being injured by air strikes, not the Kurds.

Although there has been less media focus on the besieged Syrian town of Kobani in recent days and weeks, the battle between Islamic State (IS) militants and Kurdish forces continues to rage with no significant gains or retreats on either side.

The situation in the predominantly Kurdish northern Syrian city remains unclear, however, with both sides saying that they are advancing. While it is difficult to get an accurate picture of the state of play in Kobani, it is possible to piece together information from news and social media reports.

Kurdish news sources reported this week that Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and Peshmerga militias have managed to make gains against IS militants in the city.

Kurdish outlet Rudaw reported on December 14 that a Peshmerga official, Sherwan Mohammad, said the Kurds had taken seven locations from IS militants.

Mohammad also noted that coalition war planes had been bombing Islamic State "strongholds" in Kobani and that IS militants were fighting defensively.

On December 17, the Combined Joint Task Force announced that the United States and its allies had carried out five air strikes near Kobani between December 15-December 17.

The air strikes destroyed an Islamic State building, a staging area, a bunker and a mortar and struck two IS tactical units, two more buildings and two IS fighting positions, according to the Combined Joint Task Force.

The fact that the U.S.-led air strikes are having an effect on Islamic State's ability to fight in Kobani can be gleaned from an admission by a Daghestani IS militant that fighters were wounded in air strikes.

The militant, who calls himself Abu Huraira ad-Daghestani, and who is fighting with IS in Syria, wrote on his page on the VKontakte social-media site on December 18 that reports of Kurdish advances in Kobani were not true and IS militants fighting in the town were being injured by air strikes, not the YPG or Peshmerga.

"In Kobani the brothers are advancing, all those fairytales about the yellow-faces [i.e. the Kurds] attacking are lies, almost everyone is wounded because of the air strikes.... Pray for the speedy annihilation of these sun- and idol-worshippers," he wrote.

A December 17 report by Reuters, however, says that air strikes are becoming harder as IS militants are operating less out in the open. A U.S. official told Reuters that the militants were increasingly establishing themselves "in or near civilian-use facilities."

Another U.S. official said that the fact that there are fewer fixed targets means that the strikes are "having an impact."

Meanwhile, there are reports from inside Kobani that IS militants are continuing to shell the town.

Anwar Muslim, the president of the Kurdish Kobani canton in Syria, said on December 17 that several civilians had been killed in the shelling.

Muslim answered questions put by Mutlu Civiroglu, a Syrian and Kurdish affairs analyst. According to Muslim, on December 16 three civilians were killed and 10 injured in shelling.

Muslim called for a humanitarian corridor to help what he said were thousands of civilians trapped inside Kobani and on the Syrian-Turkish border.

Video footage posted by the YPG on December 17 showed Kurdish fighters firing on IS militants who appear to be in a building inside the town. The video also shows parts of what appear to be exploded shells, presumably fired by IS militants.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena

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