Kurdish fighters vow to defend Kobani as IS tightens grip


Outgunned Kurdish fighters vowed on Monday not to abandon their posts in the Syrian border town of Kobani as Islamic State (IS) militants tightened their grip on the town with heavy artillery from three sides.

The radical al Qaeda offshoot has been battling to seize the predominantly Kurdish town for more than two weeks now. About 180 000 people have fled the town into neighbouring Turkey.

Air strikes by the US and its allies have failed to halt the advance of the Islamists, who moved to the outskirts of the town over the weekend and were battling to secure a strategic hilltop in the face of fierce resistance.

While heavy fighting ensued and stray fire hit Turkish territory, a Reuters reporter saw around 30 people cross over from Turkey, apparently to help with defence of the town.

"Fighting continues, they are also firing mortars at the heart of the town. We have light weapons only," Esmat al-Sheikh, head of the Kobani Defence Authority, told Reuters.

"If they enter Kobani, it will be a graveyard for us and for them. We will not let them enter Kobani as long as we live. We either win or die. We will resist to the end.”

IS wants to take Kobani to consolidate a dramatic sweep across northern Iraq and Syria.

Beheadings, mass killings and torture have spread fear of the group across the Middle East, with villages emptying at the approach of pick-up trucks flying the IS black flag.

Desperate positions

A female Kurdish fighter near Kobani blew herself up on Sunday after running out of ammunition, rather than be captured by IS, a monitoring group and local sources said.

On Sunday, Islamic State released a video apparently showing its fighters in control of radio masts on top of Mistanour hill, which looks out over the town and would offer valuable high ground.

Ali said fighting for control of Mistanour hill was continuing, and denied reports that IS fighters were in the streets of Kobani. He said Kurdish forces were holding them back but the situation in the town, where water and power had been cut off, was increasingly desperate.

Kobani's Kurds have so far received little help from elsewhere.

Turkey has given shelter to refugees, and its doctors have treated the wounded, but it has given no suggestion that it could join the fight against IS beyond self-defence.

Photo caption: Syrian Kurds flee fighting in Kobani into Turkey.