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U.S., Arab allies step up airstrikes around Syria border city

U.S., Arab allies step up airstrikes around Syria border city
Turkish Kurds watch from the border as smoke rises from the Syrian city of Kobani during fighting between Islamic State militants and Kurdish fighters on Oct. 7. (Lefteris Pitarakis / Associated Press)
The U.S. and its Arab partners stepped up airstrikes around Kobani, a northern Syrian border city that Turkey's president said Tuesday was about to fall to Islamic State militants.
Warplanes belonging to the U.S., Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates carried out five attacks near the besieged town, also known as Ayn al-Arab. The city has been facing a militant onslaught from three sides since last month, forcing some 130,000 mostly Kurdish Syrians to flee to neighboring Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told refugees at a camp in Gaziantep province that aerial bombardments alone may not be enough to stop the Islamic State and called for the support of rebels who are fighting the group in Syria.

"There has to be cooperation with those who are fighting on the ground," Erdogan said.

Just days ago, Turkey said it wouldn't let Kobani fall. On Thursday, Turkish lawmakers gave authorization for the country's military, one of the region's strongest, to push into neighboring Syria and Iraq.

But many observers said it was unlikely that Turkish forces would move in on Kobani, whose Kurdish defenders are allied with Turkey's longtime nemesis, the Kurdistan Workers' Party.
Islamic State militants, advancing along several fronts in northern Syria, have reportedly overrun more than two dozen mostly Kurdish villages, prompting terrified Kobani residents to abandon their homes out of fear of “ethnic cleansing.”

The secular Kurds and extremist Islamic State militants are archenemies. The Syrian Kurdish militia, known as the Popular Protection Units, has been one of the most effective forces against a host of extremist rebel factions in Syria.

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Both sides seek to maintain control of the strategic border crossing into Turkey.

The U.S. has been monitoring the battles raging around Kobani, one of the most active fronts in Syria, and on Sept. 27 began bombing Islamic State targets near the city. But before Tuesday, there had been just eight airstrikes total -- only a single strike Monday despite wide reports that the defense of the city was on the brink of collapsing.
The Pentagon said that U.S. and Arab allies attacked the militants late Monday and early Tuesday, destroying four armed vehicles and damaging another. In addition, two airstrikes southwest of Kobani damaged a militant tank, and another strike destroyed an Islamic State unit, according to U.S. Central Command.

Separately, officials said that American and Belgian forces used attack aircraft and armed drones to conduct four airstrikes against the Islamic State in neighboring Iraq, where the U.S.-led campaign against the militants began on Aug. 8.

The U.S. Air Force and Navy have dropped more than 1,140 munitions on the militants since the air campaign started.

The Associated Press, Times staff writer Patrick J. McDonnell in Beirut and special correspondent Nabih Bulos in Mursitpinar, Turkey contributed to this report.

Interested in the latest news from the Pentagon? Follow @wjhenn for military and defense info.

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