ISIL kills 164 Kurdish civilians in Kobani massacre

Extremist militants are believed to be carrying out revenge attacks after recent losses to Kurdish forces.

Syrian Kurds fleeing Kobani wait near the border with Turkey on June 26, 2015, a day after the town was attacked by ISIL. Murad Sezer / Reuters
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Beirut // ISIL has killed 164 civilians in its offensive on the Kurdish town of Kobani, in one of the extremist group’s worst massacres in Syria.

The killing spree, which took place mostly inside Kobani itself, was widely seen as vengeance for a series of defeats inflicted on ISIL by Kurdish militia in recent weeks.

At least 120 civilians were killed in a 24-hour rampage on Kobani. Another 26 were executed in a nearby village, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The bullet-riddled bodies of another 18 people, including children, were found yesterday morning in the streets of Kobani, the Observatory said, adding that they had been shot “at close range”.

The assault, in which 42 militants and 10 Kurdish fighters also died, began on Thursday when three suicide bombers blew up vehicles at the entrances to the town, which has become a symbol of Kurdish resistance.

“When they entered the town, the jihadists took up positions in buildings at the south-east and south-west entrances, firing at everything that moved,” said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

Journalist Mostafa Ali said there was no military dimension to the assault.

“ISIL doesn’t want to take over the town. They just came to kill the highest number of civilians in the ugliest ways possible,” he said.

“Every family in Kobani lost a family member on Thursday,” said Kurdish activist Arin Shekhmos.

The extremists entered Kobaniat dawn on Thursday disguised as Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters, Mr Ali said.

They took up positions in buildings in the south of the town, using civilians as “human shields”.

“There are at least 70 civilians in these various neighbourhoods that have been taken hostage by ISIL,” he said.

“The YPG has sent reinforcements and have encircled the buildings, but the situation is difficult. The YPG doesn’t want to hurt the women and children there.”

More than 1,000 fleeing civilians waited on the Syrian side of the frontier with Turkey yesterday, carefully watched by Turkish troops and police on the other side.

Kobani was the scene of one of ISIL’s most dramatic defeats in January when it was forced out by Kurdish militia backed by US-led airstrikes after four months of fighting.

Kurdish fighters have gone on to seize Tal Abyad, another border town farther east, in a blow to the ISIL’s supply lines.ISIL has hit back with an offensive against Hasakeh city in the north-east, capital of the mainly Kurdish province of the same name.

Mr Abdel Rahman said ISIL had seized two neighbourhoods in the city’s south as government forces, who jointly controlled the city with Kurdish militia, carried out airstrikes.

At least 20 militants and 30 pro-government fighters were killed when ISIL captured southern parts of Hasakeh.

The Syrian government yesterday called on city residents to take up arms.

The extremists set off bombs that destroyed part of a security building in the city, killing a number of people.

On Thursday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the clashes had displaced an estimated 60,000 people.

Roughly 50,000 were displaced within Hasakeh, while another 10,000 had fled north towards Amuda.

Mr Shekhmos said civilians from southern neighbourhoods had fled to Kurdish-controlled parts of the city, but that the YPG was not yet involved in the fighting.

ISIL previously advanced to the southern edge of Hasakeh last month but were pushed back by government forces.

In southern Syria, a rebel alliance pressed an assault on the city and provincial capital of Deraa that it began on Thursday, with about 40 people reported killed.

President Bashar Al Assad’s regime has already lost two provincial capitals in the four-year-old civil war: ISIL-held Raqa in the Euphrates valley and Idlib in the north-west, which is held by a rebel alliance including Al Qaeda.

At least 230,000 people have been killed since Syria’s conflict erupted in 2011.

* Agence France-Presse

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