The U.S. Central Command says American military forces have conducted multiple airdrops near the besieged Syrian city of Kobani to resupply Kurdish defenders of the city against fighters for the radical group Islamic State (IS).
In a statement October 19, the Central Command said U.S. C-130 cargo planes made multiple drops of arms, ammunition, and medical supplies provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq. It said they were intended to enable continued resistance to IS efforts to take full control of Kobani.
The October 19 airdrops were the first of their kind and followed weeks of U.S. and coalition air strikes in and near Kobani, near the Turkish border.
The statement said U.S. forces have conducted more than 135 air strikes against IS forces in Kobani.
U.S. Central Command earlier said American-led warplanes launched 11 air strikes near the besieged Syrian city of Kobani on October 18-19, helping Kurdish defenders repulse a new attempt by IS fighters to cut their supply lines from Turkey.
Central Command said coalition air strikes near Kobani hit 20 IS fighting positions, five IS vehicles, and two IS-held buildings.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fierce fighting continued in Kobani, which lies near the Turkish border, in the past two days as Kurdish forces repelled advancing IS militants.
It said IS militants fired nearly 50 mortars at Kurdish areas, and two car bombs hit Kurdish positions on October 18.
The Observatory said the IS group took heavy losses, quoting hospital sources who said 70 IS fighters were killed in Kobani in the past four days.
It said that from October 18 into the morning of October 19, some 31 jihadists died in the battle.
The Observatory, which has a network of sources inside Syria, said 15 IS fighters were killed in the air strikes while 16 others died in ground clashes along with seven Kurdish defenders.
Kobani's Kurdish defenders have been under IS assault for more than one month.
The U.S. military has said it sees "encouraging" signs in the battle for Kobani, but has warned the town may still fall.
The White House said on October 19 that President Barack Obama called Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and they pledged to "strengthen cooperation" against IS in Syria.
However, Erdogan, in separate comments to Turkey's Anadolu news agency, on October 19 ruled out providing any military supplies to Kobani's Kurdish defenders.
Erdogan said the dominant Syrian Kurdish party, the Democratic Union Party, is a "terrorist organization," just like the Turkish Kurdish rebel group it has been linked to, the Kurdistan Workers Party.
The coalition also carried out air strikes against IS in Iraq, including 10 on October 18-19. It has also deployed military advisers.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi military said October 19 it had recaptured several areas from the IS group in a northern enclave as part of a major counterattack against the jihadists.
Government-run al-Iraqiya TV, citing military official Khaled al-Khazraji, reported that Iraqi security forces secured a key route between the northern towns of Tikrit and Baiji and killed "tens of terrorists."
The IS group seized large swathes of Iraq in a blitz in June. The military has since attempted to drive out the militants.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in Baghdad October 19 that she had reached a deal to deploy about 200 special forces troops in Iraq to assist in the fight against the jihadists.
Also on October 19, a suicide bomber detonated explosives at a Shi'ite mosque in Baghdad, killing at least 18 people and wounding 30.
Based on reporting by AFP, AP, dpa and Reuters