Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani has called for stepped up international military and humanitarian intervention to protect civilians and stop Islamic State (IS) militants from seizing control of Kobane in Syria.
“Barzani urges countries that are fighting IS to help the people and fighters of Kobane in their fight against the terrorist ISIS,” Barzani’s Chief of Staff, Fuad Hussein, said in a statement in reference to IS.
Barzani has described the IS invasion of Kobane as a “massacre” against the Kurdish people and is closely following the situation in Kobane, Hussein said.
The call came as IS fighters surrounded Kobane, a Kurdish majority city strategically located on Turkey’s border. Several thousand fighters from the Kurdish Syrian Peoples Protection Units (YPG) have been fighting the militants with light weapons for nearly a month and are now engaged in street battles with IS.
On Tuesday night, the US-led coalition bombarded IS positions in an air offensive that provided some relief for Kurdish fighters.
However, activists say YPG is outgunned by IS and many military analysts believe it’s a matter of time before the city falls to extremists.
The KRG’s Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs said last month it was prepared to send forces and weaponry to Kobane but cannot reach the city, which is bordered by IS strongholds.
The Turkish Milliyet newspaper reported on Tuesday that the Kurdish president had asked Turkey to allow Peshmerga forces to reach Kobane and help defend the city against the Islamist militants.
The newspaper didn’t say if the Turkish government had agreed to Barzani’s request. In Turkey, at least 12 protesters were killed Tuesday in Kurdish protests against Ankara’s passive response to the IS assault on Kobane.
Hussein also said that Barzani has asked the international community to help residents of Kobane who have fled the fighting in their town and taken refuge across the border in Turkey. More than 180,000 Syrians, mostly Kurds, have fled to Turkey in recent days.
“In these terrible times the president and people of the Kurdistan Region stand by their sisters and brothers in Kobane and Rojava,” said Hussein, in reference to the Kurdish-majority areas of Syria.
Barzani’s appeal is the second since the IS militants began their attack on the Kurdish border town last month.
“We also appeal to the international community to take urgent and necessary measures to protect people and Kobane in western Kurdistan from terrorists wherever they are, because they will not hesitate to commit crimes and atrocities,” Barzani warned on the first day of attacks on Kobane last month.