Isis in Kobani: Where is it and why is the battle to defend it so important?

Town on the Syrian-Turkish border has been under siege by Isis for weeks

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The battle to stop Isis capturing the Syrian town of Kobani continues as the Islamists attempt to consolidate their power on the doorstep of Europe.

The town has become the focus of increasingly desperate efforts by Kurdish forces backed by US air strikes to stop the militants taking control.

The black flag of Isis fluttering over the town has been joined by the banner of a Kurdish forces but the battle is still on a knife-edge. But do you know where Kobani is and why it is so important?

Why is Kobani so important?

The Kurdish town, known as Ayn al-Arab in Arabic, lies directly on the Turkish-Syrian border.

The Isis flag on top of a building at the eastern side of Kobani

Control would also put Isis in striking distance of Turkey itself, where there is growing anger among Kurds at the Government’s perceived inaction fighting the Islamists.

Thousands of civilians have fled and those remaining fear a massacre if Isis wins the battle.

Some 3,000 civilians are believed still to be in Kobani, while 160,000 of its people have already left.


Who is winning?

After a three-week siege by Isis, which is using tanks and heavy weaponry, a Kurdish spokesman in Kobani was quoted as saying that the town “will certainly fall soon”.

Such is the desperation to defend the town that a Kurdish female fighter blew herself up during fighting on Sunday to kill 10 jihadists.

Deilar Kanj Khamis, better known by her military name Arin Mirkan, had stayed behind as Kurdish forces withdrew and mingled with the attackers before detonating explosives.

Smoke rises after an air strike by allied forces against Isis targets in the west of Kobani

US air strikes have hit Isis targets near the town in recent days but do not appear to have stopped the militants’ advance.

They approached from the south-east and have reportedly captured several buildings on the town’s outskirts.

The fighting continued on Tuesday as journalists over the Turkish border reported hearing gunfire and bombing by American fighter jets.

Is there concern in Turkey?

The battle for Kobani has united Kurds across the region, who have launched angry protests in several Turkish cities as well as at the border, hurling missiles at police and who fired volleys of tear gas back.

Many are angry at the Turkish armed forces’ perceived inaction getting involved in the fight against Isis on their own doorstep and preventing Kurds wanting to fight Isis from crossing the border into Syria.

Some have claimed that Turkey used the desperation of the Kurds in Kobani to extract political concessions from them before allowing reinforcements and supplies to reach the 2,000 to 3,000 fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) defending the town.