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Oct 10, 2014 6:37 AM

UN concerned for civilians trapped in Syrian town

The Associated Press

GENEVA (AP) The new U.N. envoy to Syria warned on Friday that at least 500 civilians remain trapped in the Syrian Kurdish border town of Kobani besieged by the Islamic State group and that they were likely "be massacred" if it falls to the extremists.

The dramatic warning by Staffan de Mistura came as the Islamic State group this week pushed into Kobani, along the Syria-Turkish border, for the first time since launching its offensive in the area in mid-September. The onslaught has forced more than 200,000 to flee across the border into Turkey. Activists say the fighting over Kobani has already killed more than 500 people.

On Friday, the militants shelled a Syrian border crossing with Turkey in efforts to capture it and cut off Kobani.

De Mistura said that a U.N. analysis of the situation on the ground shows that only a small portion of the town remains open for people to enter or flee Kobani. He said there were about 500 to 700 elderly people and other civilians still trapped there while 10,000 to 13,000 remain stuck in an area nearby, close to the border.

De Mistura, who spoke to reporters in Geneva, invoked the genocides in Rwanda in 1994 and in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in July 1995 as he appealed to the world to prevent another catastrophe.

If the town falls to the Islamic State fighters, "we know what they are capable of doing," said the Italian-Swedish diplomat, who was appointed to the U.N. post in July.

The civilians of Kobani "will be most likely massacred," de Mistura said. "When there is an imminent threat to civilians, we cannot, we should not be silent."

De Mistura appealed to Turkish authorities to allow volunteers and equipment to flow into the town and help its Syrian Kurdish defenders.

Without more such help, he added, Kobani is "likely to fall."


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