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Dec 20, 2014 7:31 AM

Kurds advance against IS group in Syria's Kobani

The Associated Press

BEIRUT (AP) Kurdish fighters advanced Saturday in the contested northern Syrian town of Kobani after heavy clashes with the Islamic State group, a Kurdish official and an activist group said.

Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, said Kurdish fighters advanced in six neighborhoods and have besieged the IS-held cultural center east of town. He added that Kurdish fighters captured the Yarmouk school, southeast of Kobani where eight bodies of IS fighters were found.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the main Syrian Kurdish force known as the People's Protection Units, or YPG, killed several IS fighters.

The IS group began its Kobani offensive in mid-September, capturing parts of the town as well as dozens of nearby villages. Hundreds of fighters on both sides have been killed since.

Kurdish forces have gradually pushed the extremist group back in recent weeks with the help of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.

The push in Kobani came a day after YPG fighters opened a corridor between their positions in northeastern Syria and Mount Sinjar in neighboring Iraq where Iraqi peshmerga fighters have been on the offensive as well. Earlier this week, Iraqi peshmerga fighters were also able to open another corridor to Mount Sinjar.

Iraq's Kurdistan Region Security Council said peshmerga fighters launched a new offensive on Saturday toward Mount Sinjar and were able to capture the nearby area of Mushrefa.

The statement said that early Saturday, 32 truckloads of food, water and other aid departed from the northern Iraqi city of Erbil to Mount Sinjar through the "corridor established by the courageous Peshmerga forces."

The Islamic State group captured almost a third of Iraq and Syria earlier this year, plunging the region into deep crisis.

In early August, the militants captured Iraqi towns of Sinjar and Zumar, prompting tens of thousands of people from the Yazidi minority to flee to the mountain, where they became trapped. Many were eventually airlifted by a passageway through Syria back into Iraq, where they found refuge in Iraq's northern Kurdish semi-autonomous region.


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