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Iraqis demonstrate against Islamic State and its militants in Erbil, in northern Iraq, on September 23.

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-- There were reports of clashes between Islamic State fighters and Kurdish forces as IS troops advanced toward Kobane on Thursday. Sources in Kobane reported shelling or tank fire in the vicinity of the town, although the YPG said they had pushed back IS to within around 10 kilometers of the town overnight on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Kurdish YPG has said that it is willing to cooperate with the U.S.-led coalition and provide intelligence about IS positions.


-- Iranian President Hassan Rohani told the UN General Assembly that the West was responsible for creating "terrorist havens" in Syria, the Caucasus, and elsewhere.

-- U.S., Saudi, and United Arab Emirates warplanes carried out further air strikes against 12 Islamic State targets in Syria, targeting oil refineries in the east of the country. The refineries were used by the Islamic State to gain revenues to fund its operations in Syria and Iraq, according to the Pentagon.

-- The U.S. State Department has named 12 groups and individuals it says are backing terror in Syria. The named groups include the Chechen-led faction Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, which considers itself to be a Syrian branch of the Caucasus Emirate terrorist group.

-- Kurdish refugees who fled from the border town of Ayn al-Arab (Kobane in Kurdish) to southeastern Turkey to escape Islamic State militants have started to return home, despite reports that IS is still advancing toward Ayn al-Arab.

Kurdish Refugees Return

Hundreds of Kurdish refugees who fled to Turkey from the Syrian border town of Ayn al-Arab (Kobane) began to go home when Turkey opened the border on September 25.

Lizzie Phelan of Ruptly tweeted these images from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish border on Thursday morning:

Meanwhile, Kurdish sources report that other refugees fleeing from Syria have been kept waiting at the Turkish border.

The news that some Kurds from Ayn al-Arab/Kobane are returning home comes amid reports that the Islamic State continues to advance on Ayn al-Arab. Images posted on September 24 claim to show the Islamic State just several kilometers south of the town.

Saudi Paper On U.S., Russia

In an editorial discussing the U.S. decision to strike against IS, Saudi Arabia's "Ar-Riyadh" newspaper says that while Washington is now taking action in Syria as part of a coalition with Arab states, it had previously ignored the growth of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The United States had also left the Syrian opposition without help to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the paper asserts.

"Ar-Riyadh" also criticizes Russia's condemnation of the U.S. strikes on Islamic State, saying that the Russian Foreign Ministry's comments that Syria had not given its approval for the strikes were "bizarre."

Chechen Fighter In Syria Opposes IS

One of the 10 individuals that the U.S. State Department has designated as "Foreign Terrorist Fighters" in Syria is a Chechen national who fought for the Caucasus Emirate and was imprisoned on terror charges in Russia.

Murad Margoshvili, better known by his nom de guerre Muslim Abu Walid Shishani, is the leader of the Latakia-based Islamist faction Junud ash-Sham, which has expressed its opposition to the Islamic State.

Margoshvili, an ethnic Chechen from Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, was arrested in Ingushetia in 2003 on suspicion of trafficking weapons to Chechnya. He was convicted of belonging to an illegal armed group and served three years in prison before the Supreme Court of Ingushetia acquitted him in 2006.

Margoshvili went to Syria in 2012.

Activists Photograph Warplane Above Abu Kamal

Activists from the Raqqa-based group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently tweeted this image of coalition warplanes flying over Abu Kamal in eastern Syria, near the border with Iraq this morning.

The United States has said it hit Islamic State-controlled oil refineries around Al-Mayadin, Al-Hasakah, and Abu Kamal in eastern Syria on Wednesday night.

SMC: U.S. Strikes Benefit Assad

Syria analyst Charles Lister of the Brookings Center tweets that the now-dissolved Supreme Military Council (SMC) of the Free Syrian Army has said that U.S. strikes against IS only benefit the Assad government:

The Syrian National Coalition, the main opposition political alliance, dissolved the SMC leadership on September 22.

Ahrar ash-Sham Condemns U.S. Strikes

Ahrar ash-Sham, one of the largest Islamist rebel groups in Syria, has condemned the U.S.-led strikes against Islamic State, according to pro-opposition news outlet Eldorar.

Abu Omar, one of Ahrar ash-Sham's political officials, said that the strikes against IS helped the Assad government. He denied that the faction had been hit in the strikes.

Iranian Grand Ayatollah: IS Not Islamic

Iran's Grand Ayatollah Alavi Gorgani has said that Islamic State's actions have no basis in Islam, state news agency IRNA reports.

Gorgani, a prominent religious scholar from Qom and a leading critic of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that Islam was a religion of mercy and compassion, and that IS's brutal terrorist acts were giving Islam a bad image.

UN Slams IS Execution of Iraqi Women's Rights Lawyer

The UN's human rights commissioner, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, has condemned the Islamic State's execution of Iraqi human rights defender Sameera Salih Ali al-Nuaimy.

Nuaimy, a lawyer who promoted women's rights, was publicly executed by a firing squad in central Mosul earlier this week. Her execution came days after the Islamic State detained her on September 17, after comments were posted on her Facebook page criticizing IS. Before her execution, Nuaimy was convicted of "apostasy."

"This horrifying public execution -- of a courageous woman whose only weapons were the words she used in defense of the human rights of others -- lays bare the bankrupt ideology of ISIL and its affiliates," High Commissioner Zeid said in a statement.

Amnesty International's Kristyan Benedict tweeted this image of Nuaimy:

U.A.E. Pilot Mariam al-Mansouri Trends On Arab Social Media

Photographs of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) fighter pilot Major Mariam al-Mansouri continue to trend on Arabic social media and in the Arab press.

Mansouri, the U.A.E.'s first female fighter pilot, commands a squadron of F-16s and led the U.A.E.'s air strikes on the Islamic State in Syria.

Pan-Arab news outlet Elaph writes that 35-year-old Mansouri was raised in Abu Dhabi and always dreamed of becoming a fighter pilot.

Map: Ayn Al-Arab On The Brink

Syria Direct tweeted this map showing the situation in Ayn al-Arab (Kobane in Kurdish), where Islamic State fighters are directing troops.

Kurdish news sources report clashes between IS fighters and the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) around 7 kilometers from Kobane:

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