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Syrian Rebels Said To Enter Kobani From Turkey

  • RFE/RL

Officials and activists say a group of fighters from the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) have entered the embattled Syrian town of Kobani from Turkey to help Kurdish fighters battling Islamic State (IS) militants.

Their reported arrival early on October 29 came several hours after some 150 Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga troops arrived in Turkey, on their way to Kobani to support their fellow Kurds.

Kurdish officials in Kobani and Syrian activists said some 50 FSA fighters crossed to Kobani through the Mursitpinar border crossing with Turkey.

The AFP news agency quoted a local Turkish official as saying on condition of anonymity that 150 FSA fighters crossed overnight in several buses.

There were no immediate comments from officials in Ankara.

It was not clear where the FSA fighters had come from originally.

FSA is an umbrella group of mainstream rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Meanwhile, the peshmerga fighters from Iraq were still on Turkish territory early on October 29, awaiting their transfer to Kobani.

One contingent flew from Irbil, the Iraqi Kurdish capital. They arrived in the early hours of October 29 at Sanliurfa airport in southeastern Turkey.

Escorted by Turkish security forces, the group boarded buses and headed toward the border.

Another contingent, carrying weapons including artillery, was travelling separately by land through Turkey.

The two groups of fighters are expected to meet later on October 29 in Suruc, some 16 kilometers from Kobani, before crossing the border into Syria.

Under international pressure, Turkey agreed last week to allow the Iraqi Kurdish fighters to cross its territory to join the fight for Kobani.

More than 800 people have been killed since IS militants launched an offensive on Kobani six weeks ago.

The fighting has forced some 200,000 people from the predominantly Kurdish town and surrounding areas to flee across the Turkish border.

Weeks of U.S.-led air strikes have helped Kobani's Kurdish defenders to prevent the city from falling to IS extremists.

Clashes continued on October 28, and a local Kurdish commander said IS militants still controlled 40 percent of the city.

The Sunni extremist group controls territories both in Syria and Iraq.

Iraqi officials said Iraq government forces backed by Shi'ite militias had gained momentum in their fight against Islamic State militants in recent days.

On October 29, Iraqi forces advanced to within 2 kilometers of the city of Baiji in a new offensive to retake Iraq's biggest oil refinery besieged by IS insurgents since June, the officials said.

Reuters quoted an army colonel who said on the condition of anonymity that Iraqi forces have taken six villages just outside Baiji.

Iraqi forces hope to cut off supply lines to militants encircling the refinery and gain control of a road leading to the city of Mosul, the colonel said.

Baiji is some 200 kilometers north of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

Iraqi forces last week recaptured the city of Jurf al-Sakhar, just south of Baghdad, from Islamic State militants who had held it since late July.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and BBC