Sep 22, 2014 8:03 AM

Some 130,000 Syrians reach Turkey, fleeing IS

The Associated Press

SURUC, Turkey (AP) Some 130,000 Syrian refugees have reached Turkey in the past four days after fleeing the advance of Islamic State militants, Turkey's deputy prime minister said Monday, warning that the number could rise further as the militants press ahead with an onslaught.

Numan Kurtulmus said however, that Turkey was ready to react to "the worst case scenario."

"I hope that we are not faced with a more populous refugee wave, but if we are, we have taken our precautions," Kurtulmus said. "A refugee wave that can be expressed by hundreds of thousands is a possibility."

The refugees have been flooding into Turkey since Thursday, escaping an Islamic State offensive that has pushed the conflict nearly within sight of the Turkish border. The conflict in Syria had already pushed more than a million people over the border in the past 3 years.

The al-Qaida breakaway group which says it wants to establish an Islamic state, or caliphate, ruled by a harsh version of Islamic law in territory it captured straddling the Syria-Iraq border has in recent days advanced into Kurdish regions of Syria that border Turkey, where fleeing refugees on Sunday reported atrocities that included stonings, beheadings and the torching of homes.

On Monday, fighting between Kurdish fighters and the Islamic State militants raged on near the northern city of Kobani, which is also known as Ayn Arab, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Observatory said the militants lost at least 21 fighters since Sunday night, most of them on the southern outskirts of Kobani.

Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for Syria's Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, told The Associated Press that the situation on the ground "is better than before."

He added that the main Kurdish force in Syria, known as the People's Protection Units, had pushed Islamic State fighters about 10 kilometers (6 miles) away from their previous positions east of Kobani.

"We will fight until the last gunman in Kobani," Khalil said.

The situation at the Turkish side of the border was tense, with more clashes breaking out between Kurds wanting to cross to take aid to the Kobani region and police preventing them from reaching the area.

The nearby town of Suruc was flooded with refugees and armored military vehicles were moving.

"This is not a natural disaster... What we are faced with is a man-made disaster," said Kurtulmus, the Turkish deputy prime minister.

"We don't know how many more villages may be raided, how many more people may be forced to seek refuge. We don't know," he said. "An uncontrollable force at the other side of the border is attacking civilians. The extent of the disaster is worse than a natural disaster."


Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, and Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed.


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