SANLIURFA Turkey/BEIRUT (Reuters) – Iraqi peshmerga fighters arrived in southeastern Turkey on Wednesday en route for the Syrian town of Kobani to try to help fellow Kurds break an Islamic State siege which has defied U.S.-led air strikes.
Kobani, nestled on the border with Turkey, has been under assault from Islamic State militants for more than a month and its fate has become a key test of the U.S.-led coalition’s ability to combat the Sunni insurgents.
Weeks of air strikes on Islamic State positions around Kobani and the deaths of hundreds of their fighters have failed to break the siege. Syrian Kurds and their international allies hope the arrival of the peshmerga, along with heavier weapons, can turn the tide.
A Turkish Airlines plane touched down in the southeastern city of Sanliurfa at around 1:15 a.m. (2315 GMT) amid tight security, a Reuters correspondent said. A convoy of white buses escorted by armoured jeeps and police cars left the airport shortly afterwards.
“They will be in our town today,” Adham Basho, a member of the Syrian Kurdish National Council from Kobani, said of the peshmerga, confirming that a group of between 90 and 100 fighters had arrived in Sanliurfa overnight.
A separate group of peshmerga is travelling to the Turkish border region by land with heavier weapons. A Kurdish television channel showed footage of what it said was a convoy of peshmerga vehicles loaded with weapons en route to the area.
Saleh Moslem, co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), said the peshmerga were expected to enter Kobani — known as Ayn al-Arab in Arabic — later on Wednesday and would bring heavy arms with them.
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