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Kurds Battle For Key Syria Town; Female Suicide Bomber Hits IS

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer supersonic bomber flies over northern Iraq after conducting air strikes in Syria against IS targets. (file photo)

Kurdish defenders backed by U.S.-led air strikes battled Islamic State (IS) militants for the key Syrian border town of Kobani on October 5.

IS fighters reportedly seized part of a strategic hill overlooking Kobani, but their progress was slowed by new air strikes.

A local Kobani official, Idris Nahsen, said IS fighters were just one kilometer from the town and that air strikes alone were not enough to stop them.

He complained of a lack of coordination between the coalition and Kurdish fighters on the ground.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that a female Kurdish fighter blew herself up at an IS position east of Kobani.

Kobani, near the Turkish border, has become a crucial battleground in the international fight against IS.

In a statement, U.S. Central Command said the U.S. military carried out three air strikes in Syria on October 4, while fighter jets, bombers, and helicopters were used in six assaults against IS in Iraq on October 5.

The observatory, which relies on a network of local sources, said at least 33 IS fighters and 23 of the town's Kurdish defenders were killed on October 4.

IS began its offensive to take Kobani on September 16, seeking to consolidate its control over a long stretch of the Syria-Turkey border.

The advance prompted a mass exodus from the town and surrounding areas, with some 186,000 people fleeing into Turkey.

The extremist Sunni Muslim group has seized large swaths of Syria and Iraq, declaring a "caliphate" in June.

The group has been accused of carrying out widespread atrocities including mass executions, abductions, torture, and forcing women into slavery.

After first launching strikes against IS in Iraq in August, the United States has built a coalition of allies against the group.

Britain and France have joined the air strikes in Iraq, and five Arab nations -- Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates -- have taken part in the Syria raids.

Belgium's Defense Ministry said one of its F-16 fighter jets on October 5 carried out its first bombing raid against IS in Iraq.

Belgium has contributed six F-16 bombers to the air campaign.

The Dutch government said its F-16 fighter bombers also began flights over Iraq on October 5 and are ready to join the campaign.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Paris will "increase" the rate of air patrols over Iraq, branding IS "a terrorist army."

Turkey's parliament last week authorized the government to join the campaign, but so far no plans for military action have been announced.

Meanwhile, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on October 5 called the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates to say he did not mean to imply in his remarks last week that the Gulf ally was supporting Al-Qaeda fighters in Syria.

The White House said Biden spoke with Prince Mohamed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.

It was the second time in two days that Biden had to call a key partner in the coalition to clarify comments he made last week.

On October 2, Biden told an audience at Harvard University that U.S. allies -- including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the U.A.E. -- had funded and armed Syrian extremist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in order to weaken President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The White House said Biden clarified his remarks and recognized the U.A.E.'s strong steps to counter extremists and participation in U.S.-led air strikes.

On October 4, Biden called to apologize to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa
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